Using Social Media: Five Questions Every Small Business Needs to Ask

“Well, we started a Facebook page because everybody else was doing it.”

Every time a business employee says those words, digital marketers die a little on the inside. It’s painful for us because we know that eventually, the small business is going to assume they tried social media and that it didn’t work.

One of the prevalent issues with social media marketing is that the barriers to entry are set lower than the expectations for M. Night Shyamalan movies. It takes less than five minutes to start Facebook and Twitter pages and even less time to start updating. Mix this with the ongoing hype about social media and it leads to a lot of business owners frantically jumping into the social media pool without so much as a paddling board. This leads to a situation where social profiles often run on auto-pilot, without any goals being defined or metrics being tracked, unless the business just gives up and lets their social profiles gather dust. In the interests of keeping level heads all around when it comes to spending time and effort on marketing channels, I’ve written up five mandatory questions to be able to answer as you make the initial foray into social media.

1. What social networks are we going to use?

A lot of business owners never pause to consider this one because their minds are set firmly on Facebook and occasionally Twitter. It’s true that Facebook is the 900 million user gorilla in the room when it comes to social networks, but the real question you should be asking is how many of those 900 million people are going to benefit your business. Are people on Facebook going to be interested enough in what you do to like your page and integrate your updates into their personal newsfeeds? Any time you prepare to use a social network you need to know how it will be adding value and revenue to your business.

Not knowing the answers to these questions means you may be putting a lot of time and effort into Facebook or Twitter without knowing what the objective is. This leads directly to…

2. What are we going to do with social media?


There’s a two question process when I sit down with small business owners for the first time.

Me: Okay, let’s start off with an important question. What do you want to do with social media?
Business owner: We want to make money.
Me: Okay, good answer. How?

That’s when I get the blank look.

Saying you’re “doing” your social media is like saying you’re “doing” your phone or E-mail. Social media is a tool, another arrow in the quiver. If you want social media to make money for you, you need to know how you’re going to leverage social media. Lead generation? Building an E-mail subscriber list? Generating word-of-mouth on Facebook? Customer service? Recreating the experience of being in a physical location while online? None of these are mutually exclusive but there needs to be a goal in mind for how the people on social media will positively affect your business.

3. What is our target audience?


This is another one that tends to go understated. My favorite response to this has been “Target audience? Uh, people who want my product/service! Who else?”

There’s a lot to consider about the value of knowing your target audience overall, but let’s stay social media specific. Even then there are several posts I could do on this topic, but let’s address two major points.

Knowing your audience is knowing what they’re interested in, what makes them tick, and what they’re likely to respond to. This leads to a better understanding of what type of content to create and share with your audience. It also lets you better understand what times your audience is likely to be online. If you know when to reach your audience and how to reach them, and on what social networks (see #1), you’ll get more people talking about and sharing your own content.

-Knowing your audience is key to success with social network ads. If you’re a New York City based business, you could target everyone in all five boroughs with a Facebook ad campaign and you wouldn’t see any traffic. Targeting your ads based on a much narrower audience based on precise, focused demographic data and interests of your ideal customers

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makes it much more likely that they’ll click through to your Facebook page, app, or website.

4. Are our customers really interested in this?

People in general tend to have almost no filter when it comes to sharing every mundane detail of their lives online (we still don’t care about what you had for lunch), but to that end, social media marketing is thinking like your consumer. It’s thinking about their needs, wants, desires, and interests. When you get new likes or follows, these people have made the decision to integrate your content into their personal newsfeeds. Social media is entirely opt-in based, so you’d better find out what these people like and provide that value through your content.

Now I can rest easy knowing you ate a turkey sandwich.

Answering this question will prevent you from lapsing into vapid updates about the weather, random Instagram photos with no significance, or updates from your personal hobbies or interests that you may care about, but your customers likely won’t. There’s a lot of white noise in social media; respect your readers by giving them something for their like.

5. How will we measure our results?


Most of the prior questions on this list come into play here. If you know what you want to do with social media you’ll have a much easier time measuring the results. Knowing your target audience and what content to create for them makes this that much easier. On a general basis you gauge return by increased leads, online and offline traffic, share of online voice, and ultimately, sales. Get specific by monitoring your goals. If you want to get people into a storefront, measure offline traffic relative to your social media efforts. Integrate Google Analytics if you want to drive people to your website through your social channels.

Be sure to measure the right results, too. Getting 1,000 Facebook likes or 60,000 impressions from a Facebook ad may look impressive to you but it has no impact on your business or bottom line. If you really want to build a big Facebook audience, focus on answering these questions to make people want to follow your brand.

Social media marketing is an endeavor that requires knowing. Know yourself, know your business, know your customers.