iStock image © Sitthiphong

iStock image © Sitthiphong

Social media marketing growth continues to explode, with worldwide spending doubling between 2014 and 2016, according to the online statistics database Statista. Facebook reports that 50 million small businesses use Facebook pages to connect with their customers. At the same time, businesses want to be sure they are getting a good return on their investments of time and resources. To use social media effectively to grow your business, it’s essential to start with a strong social media strategy.

Platform Breakdown
For the purposes of this article, we will limit our discussion of social media platforms to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and blogging. Pay particular attention to the statistics and demographic breakdowns because they will help you decide which platforms are best for your target audience.

    •    2.01B monthly active users.
    •    87% of people ages 18 to 29.
    •    74% college graduates.
    •    79% of 30 to 49-year-olds.
    •    56% users ages 65+.
    •    72% with income $75K+.
    •    55M status updates made every day.
    •    350M photos uploaded every day (4,000 photo uploads per second).
    •    Average time spent on FB per visit is 20 minutes, making the average monthly time spent on FB 600 hours.
    •    Every 20 Minutes:
        –    1M links are shared
        –    20M friend requests are sent
        –    3M messages are sent

Think in terms of your target market when you use Facebook for your business. The 18 to 29 group and college graduates most likely don’t have kids yet. They tend to spend a lot, and although they have debt, they are also generating income. The 30 to 49 group is your professionals, corporate clients, possibly upper-management. They attend industry events and company retreats. The 65-plus group is retired, so they might travel a lot for fun or to see family and would take part in group casino trips and other outings. Facebook is a great platform for community building when you tailor your content to your target market’s interests.

    •    328M monthly active users.
    •    37% of people 18 to 29.
    •    25% of 30- to 49-year-olds.
    •    54% of people earning at least $50K.
    •    Tweets per day: 500M.
    •    79% of Twitter accounts are based outside the U.S.
    •    67M Twitter users are in U.S.

Twitter is a great source for live news as its happening. If your client is not the “Average Joe,” Twitter is a platform you need to take seriously. Twitter is particularly helpful for the travel industry, higher education, public transit updates, and alerts. For example, when I lived just outside of Boston, before I walked out the door each morning, I’d check the MBTA’s Twitter account to see if there were delays, so I’d know if I should take the commuter rail or take the T.

Twitter has a learning curve and is a challenge for many businesses, but for companies that engage directly with their customers, it’s the most important tool. Twitter is growing more popular as the top option for social customer service. Use Twitter to respond directly to client praise, suggestions, or complaints.

Twitter Hashtags
Twitter popularized hashtags in the general public. They can be extremely useful for businesses, but be sure to follow proper hashtag etiquette.
    •    Take your time to think about creative hashtags that are easy to remember.
    •    Use them for unique campaigns and events.
    •    Use them to boost engagement and generate new followers.
    •    Avoid overly generic hashtags if you can.
    •    If you have a long string of words, capitalize each letter in the beginning of the word.

When British singing sensation Susan Boyle had her album release party, the hashtag used by her media team was #susanalbumparty, which is either a sensible hashtag or an unfortunate one, depending on how you read it.

    •    59% of people ages 18 to 29.
    •    33% of 30-to 49-year-olds.    
    •    80% of Instagram users are outside of the U.S.
    •    77.6M Instagram users are from U.S.
    •    40B+ photos uploaded to date.
    •    Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement.
    •    Instagram videos get 2x more engagement than photos on any other platforms.
    •    Instagram influencers are charging up to $100K for a sponsored post.
    •    Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags.

Use Instagram to showcase your vehicles, offer staff photos, show behind-the-scenes shots, and highlight your service areas and clients. I love Instagram, in particular, because I love to travel, and so do many of my friends. Seeing original photos from around the world, right in the palm of my hand, makes the world feel so much smaller to me — and more accessible. Instagram is an amazing platform if you want to emphasize having a global reach.

    •    106M monthly active users.
    •    44% of people earning $75K+.
    •    41% of millionaires.
    •    3M active job listings on the platform.
    •    1M professionals have published posts on LinkedIn.
    •    “Motivated” was the most common word in 2014 and 2015.
    •    Profiles with photos get 21x more views and messages.
    •    80% of B2B leads (corporate clients) come from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the most important platform for corporate businesses. You can use LinkedIn to set yourself up as an industry expert by blogging for free on LinkedIn Pulse. There is tiered membership, so you can have a Premium account or Recruiter account if you post a lot of jobs. If you keep your profile and account updated, LinkedIn can be an important tool that allows companies and individuals to find you and your business without any additional marketing efforts on your part.

Your company’s blog is a great way to showcase your services and expertise, as well as to connect with your clients in another meaningful and low-cost way. It is also a really great way to optimize keywords and fantastic for SEO — improving your website’s rankings in search engine results — because blogs keep your website fresh and up to date.

•    Create a content calendar — assign a writer, editor, and due dates.
    •    Use images throughout your posts.
    •    Make sure there are sharing options within your blog pages.
    •    Keep your user experience in mind.
    •    Share across your social platforms.
    •    Offer a newsletter subscription and build your email list.

Once you decide which social media platforms would serve your business best, it’s time to use those platforms strategically.

Finding Your Niche
Creating content that people within your niche can reference or repost will help you gain organic and targeted followers who will engage with you and will result in new and recurring business, as well as establish your authority. Additionally, collaborating with key figures and influencers in your field will help you grow interactive and responsive followers, as well as make you an influencer. If your niche is private passenger bus providers, you can create content that will appeal to your natural customers and colleagues in the field.

When choosing your niche, you should focus on these questions:
•    What are you known for?
•    What sets you apart from your
•    How do you want to grow?

Customer Demographics
Knowing your target market allows you to focus budget and brand message on a specific demographic and market that is likely to buy from you. You aren’t excluding other markets; you are putting your money and your content where it will be most effective.

•    Look at your current customer base.
•    Check your competition.
•    Analyze your product/service.
•    Choose specific demographics.
    – Age
    – Location
    – Gender
    – Income level
    – Education level
    – Marital or family status
    – Occupation
    – Ethnic background
•    Psychographics
– Personality
– Attitudes
– Values
– Interests/hobbies
– Lifestyles
– Behavior
•    Evaluate your decision
– Are there enough people who fit
    my criteria?
– Will my target audience benefit
    from my product/service? Will
    they see a need for it?
– Do I understand what drives my
    target to make decisions?
– Can they afford my product/
– Can I reach them with my message?
    Are they easily accessible?

•    50% Curated content (content you find from external sources that’s relevant to your audience).
•    30% Original content (content you generate internally — blogs, photos, etc.).
•    20% Promotional content (sales pitch).

•    Know the message you want to send.
•    Brainstorm about what content will deliver that message.
•    Create the content — now you have a content strategy.

•    Review analytics to understand best posting times (time of day, day of week).
•    Funnel traffic to specific videos/photos.
•    Work on featuring that content on other large media outlets after its creation.

Some social media posts are so engaging and relatable that they go viral: they grow exponentially as people share them over and over. Our client’s post went viral after we posted a video about their participation in the #22Pushup Challenge, a campaign to support veterans. This client is a family-owned business, and when the owner’s 90-year-old grandfather did 22 pushups to honor his veteran son, the Internet went wild for it. It went viral for many reasons: it resonated with veterans, seniors, anyone with a beloved grandparent, anyone who has ever participated in a challenge to raise awareness for a cause, and it was already a trending challenge. In the end, the video reached over one million people.

Avoid political or controversial content that would drive a wedge between you and your clients. We do business with people we like — I don’t know how many times I’ve stopped doing business with companies because I received poor customer service. In short, relatability is just as important as properly training your staff in stellar customer service.

When creating or curating content that will resonate well, share your back-story, your hobbies, and photos of yourself and your staff.

Think about gourmet cupcakes. They all have a wrapper, a cake, and frosting — the components are so similar, yet each cupcake is so different. Your content should be diverse, yet contain similar themes.

Your audience should know what to expect from you on social media.
•    When you will post.
•    What you will share.
•    What services you offer.
•    Where to follow you for deals and
    exclusive offers. Being consistent, by definition, takes time.

What does having high engagement mean to you? It could be likes or followers, post reactions, post shares, or comments. Have you ever seen a company who has tons of followers, but no one is “liking” or commenting? It looks shady.

Engagement should be a two-way street.
•    Re-share
•    Comment
•    Use hashtags to connect
•    Troubleshoot

Good at business
Internet pioneer Jay Baer said it best: the goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media.
Social media is used to ensure a large variety of people see who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them with little to no cost.

Why is social media a good investment (aside from being free)?
•    It complements traditional marketing efforts.
•    It’s here to stay.
•    There are tools available within the platforms that can give you great insight on your clients.
•    It helps make your audience understand you and LIKE you.
•    Social media provides intangible benefits that are impossible to get from traditional marketing.
•    Social media allows you to build your brand, earn strong links from reputable sources, and most importantly, interact directly with your consumers.  

Aleja Seabron is the Social Media Manager at The LMC Group, a management services company. (