How to Create a Small Business Social Media Plan

Now that you’ve decided which social media networks your business is going to join, it’s time to write out your social media plan. Why Develop a Social Media Plan?

You may be wondering why a social media plan is necessary. After all, maintaining a social media account seems simple enough—you post content, share other peoples’ content, and interact with followers. While this is true to some extent, if your posts and interactions on social aren’t driven by a carefully crafted plan, you may be wasting your time. In order to get the most out of your efforts on social, you have to determine what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them. Your content will then support those goals.

What Should a Social Media Plan Include?

Each business’s social media plan will be unique based on its individual needs. However, every plan should contain the following basic elements as a foundation:

  • Audience: Who are you trying to reach? Are they the same people on each social network, or different?
  • Goals: What do you hope to achieve by using social media? Do you want to drive engagement and repeat business from current customers? Connect with new customers? Boost traffic to your business’s blog?
  • Networks: Which networks will you be posting on?
  • Content types: Will you be posting news articles? Videos? Photos? Quotes? Will the type of content you post be the same across every network, or customized?
  • Content mix: What percent of content will you post to engage and inform your viewers, and what percent will you use to promote your business’s products, services, specials, and events? The standard mix is 80% informative content and 20% promotional content, but your plan may vary depending on your audience and industry.
  • Posting schedule: How many times a day will you be posting on each network? What times during the day will you be posting? Who will be responsible for posting on each network?
  • Customer service policy: Who will be in charge of responding to customer service inquiries? How will you handle negative feedback or angry customers?
  • Testimonials and reviews: Will you share positive feedback from happy customers on social channels? If so, what format will this feedback be presented in, and how often will you share it?
  • Contests and ads: If you plan to run any social contests or ad campaigns, make sure to include those in your plan as well. You should include your concept, budget, and desired outcome so that you can benchmark your results once the campaign has run.

How to Optimize Your Plan

Starting off with a social media plan is a great first step, but as you begin to post regularly and see how your audience interacts with your content, you’ll inevitably end up adjusting your social media plan to maximize your reach and engagement. Make sure to go back and put it down in writing; you never know when you might hand off social media responsibilities to someone else, and you’ll want your plan to be as accurate as possible for that person to follow.

The Bottom Line

Before you invest time and energy into posting great content and engaging with followers on social, make sure you have a solid social media plan in place so that your goals are clear. Then, any time you struggle to come up with content to share, you can go back to these goals for inspiration and guidance.

6 Ways to Win at Social Customer Service

Social customer service is on the rise, and customers are increasingly turning to Facebook, Twitter, and other major social networks to make brand inquiries and complaints. While it may seem like extra work to have to manage yet another customer service channel, social media actually provides a unique opportunity for small businesses. When handled well, social customer service can boost your brand’s reputation, visibility, and engagement. The flip side is that when handled poorly, it can do a lot of damage to your image.

These 6 tips will help you use social customer service to benefit both your customers and your brand.

1. Respond Quickly

Research has shown that users who submit a customer service request on social expect an answer in real time—preferably within the hour the request is made. While you probably don’t have the bandwidth to follow up with customers hourly, you should monitor your social channels daily so that you can respond within 24 hours. A longer delay, and sentiment about your business will quickly decline.

2. Tag Users in Your Replies

Most social networks will trigger an email or in-app notification when a user is tagged in a post, so make sure to tag the customer in your reply to ensure that he or she sees it.

3. Provide a Resolution in-Network

If a customer asks you a question via Twitter, don’t tell them to call your store for an answer. If someone complains about a product on Facebook, don’t send them an email. Follow up with the customer on the channel where they originally inquired. Not only will it be a more coherent experience for the customer, but it will also allow other users of the network see the resolution play out—and positive resolutions can have a big impact on other consumers’ perceptions of your brand.

4. Be Specific

A generic cut-and-paste of an answer from your FAQ page isn’t enough to satisfy an online inquiry. Users expect a specific answer that takes their personal situation into account. Additionally, when you respond to a customer service inquiry on social, make sure that you’re specific about who you are, too. Reinforcing that you’re a real person being will humanize the experience and lend specificity to your conversation.

5. Show Some Love

As with any other customer service channel, make sure your replies are personal, sympathetic, and focused on solving the problem as efficiently as possible. Be genuine and helpful, and your audience will sense it—both the customer you’re helping and the spectators who are passively watching your interaction.

6. Listen up

Even if you aren’t receiving many active customer service requests, you can learn a lot just by listening to what people are saying about your business online. You can do this manually by looking at mentions on each social network, or by using a social listening tool to monitor feedback about your brand across channels. Listening to the online commentary about your business will provide valuable insights that can help you optimize your customer service and offerings without having to create a formal user survey.

The Bottom Line

Don’t think of social customer service as a headache—think of it as an opportunity. By providing your customers with timely, specific, useful feedback where they’re asking for help, you’ll show your social audience that customers matter to you. This is the type of brand reputation-boost that you can’t get from tooting your own horn. Let your actions convey your brand’s values, and you’ll start to build up a loyal consumer base on social over time.

Learn more about how SinglePlatform can help you today!

Don’t Be Scared To Share: The benefits of using social media as a small business owner

According to research done by the Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, Americans spend an average of 3.2 hours a day on Social Media. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the statistics can’t be ignored. Americans, as a whole, like to spend large amounts of time scrolling through news feeds. Interact with your community through social media: Social outlets don’t appear to be going away any time soon, and they offer small and local businesses an opportunity to interact with customers, get vital feedback, and expand their audience cost-effectively. Unlike larger chains, as a small business owner your store is unique; it’s a little piece of you. Local businesses have the opportunity to cultivate deep relationships with their customers, and with social media that interaction can extend past the time the customer is physically in your business. People have been infatuated by the personal attention and customer relationships they’re able to create with small businesses for years. Social media provides businesses with a new opportunity for the owner-customer relationship to grow even deeper.

How to use social media to your benefit: Social media offers a myriad of opportunities for small businessesFrom general branding purposes to sharing coupons and offers that encourage repeat purchases, social media also provides a platform for customers to promote your business to their extended personal networks. Meaning once you’ve cultivated your specific identity, social media gives you the platform to show it off to a broader audience. Running your own business is no easy task. However, clearly you’re passionate enough about your industry to take on the challenge each and every day. Social media is simply another opportunity to let that passion shine.

Here are a few tips to help with your social media goals:

Use pictures to get more views: Hubspot suggests you share photos, because articles with images get 94% more total views than articles with out images. The post could be about a sale, a store renovation, or even just a friendly hello. Either way, when posting, remember posts with images drive more traffic through the door.

Engage quickly with your “friends”, “followers”, etc: When someone reaches out to you on social media, treat it as if someone were walking in your door. Having an active social media account allows your relationship with your customers to blossom and will keep them coming back again and again. Responding quickly to negative comments can save a customer relationship and demonstrate to future customers that you’re listening and care about customer satisfaction. This can be seen in a recent study published by Texas Tech, which shows that brands that engage in social media see a higher rate of customer loyalty than brands that do not.

Schedule Your Posts: As a small business owner, your wear many hats and adding social media to the pile can be daunting. Instead of trying to remember to post everyday, try scheduling your posts for the entire week or setting alerts to remind yourself it’s time to post. You can post about new shipments, holidays, or any exciting events that may be coming up for your business or industry.

SinglePlatform makes it easy to share with your social networks with our announcements tool. Learn more about all our features here!

[News] Small Business Optimism Hits 6-Year High

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Economy News] Small Business Optimism Hits Highest Level in 6 Years

News Source: Fox Business News

This week, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its latest Small Business Optimism Index, showing an increase of 1.4 points in May for a total of 96.6 points—the highest index reading since 2007.

A few key factors contributed to business owners’ improved outlook  in May:

  • Employment: May was the eighth consecutive month of increased employment.
  • Job Creation: Planned hiring increased 2% above and beyond expected seasonal hires.
  • Sales: Small business owners reported higher nominal sales to date in Q2, and 15% of participants said they expect sales to improve over the next quarter, the highest percentage since mid-2007.

Key Takeaway: The lingering effects of tough economic times haven’t been eradicated by any means, but the Optimism Index indicates that the tide may be finally turning for small businesses. As consumer confidence continues to rebound, let’s hope that local establishments reap the benefit! 

[Social Media News] SMBs Experience Positive Return on Twitter Investment

News Source: AllTwitter

This week, Twitter released a new study on SMB Twitter usage and perceptions. The social media company surveyed 1100 small and medium business owners in the U.S.

The major findings of the study were generally favorable toward Twitter as a platform for market seeding and customer support:

  • 74% of respondents feel they receive a positive return on time invested in Twitter.
  • 73% view Twitter as a quick way to address customer service issues.
  • 72% agree that it’s important to be on Twitter.
  • 70% post on Twitter at least once a day.
  • 68% feel that Twitter is important to their marketing strategy.

Key Takeaway: Twitter is becoming a more important marketing tool for small businesses as owners begin to see the benefits of investing in the platform. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Only 58% of survey participants currently use Twitter for business, although more than 70% feel that the social network is an important channel. If you haven’t yet gotten in the social game for your small business, now is the time! Local consumers are looking for you there—don’t miss out on the opportunity to start a conversation with prospects and engage your current customers.

[Local Search News] Apple Acquires Social Maps Search Engine

News Source: Tech Crunch

Apple acquired social search engine Spotsetter last week. The startup, founded in 2012, was spearheaded by two ex-Google Maps engineers who have now joined Apple’s team.

Spotsetter’s technology works to layer friends’ recommendations, reviews, and other social information on top of a standard map interface to make local search a more social experience. The algorithm pulls in content from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare, as well as review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat, and Michelin.

As of summer 2013, Spotsetter had 5 million user profiles, 40 million venues mapped, and 1 million curated venue content items worldwide.

Key Takeaway: Given the epic failure that Apple Maps has been to date, Apple’s acquisition of Spotsetter makes sense. If Apple can augment its proprietary maps technology with additional data that competitors like Google and MapQuest aren’t providing, they may be able to woo back iOS users who gave up on their Maps app early on.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Restaurants Given the Chance to Review Customers

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Restaurant News] Restaurants Review Customers with Dimmi ResDiary

News Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

Australia-based restaurant reservation system Dimmi ResDiary is now allowing participating restaurants to track and rate customers on “dining performance”—what they ordered, what kind of tip they left, what additional requests they made, and how they treated the staff.

The hope is that restaurant ratings will promote improved behavior by customers. The review system will also aid restaurant staff in identifying patron preferences and rewarding individuals who are big spenders or pleasant to serve.

Key Takeaway: Giving restaurants the ability to review patrons has the potential to affect negative customer behaviors. However, this system includes the same dangers as consumer reviews, opening the door to harsh or inappropriate comments by businesses that could affect customer loyalty and retention.

Restaurants have a lot more to lose by creating negative reviews of patrons than patrons do by criticizing a business. Those participating in such “reverse-Yelp” programs should tread very lightly when it comes to giving negative feedback.

[Social Media News] Facebook Rolls out New Design for All Business Pages

News Source: The Next Web

This week, Facebook began rolling out its new one-column Business Page design to users worldwide. Posts will now appear in a single main column instead of a two-column staggered layout.

The left column includes key Page information such as Likes, maps, hours of operation, website URL, About Us description, and any apps you’re using.

The Tab structure at the top of the page has also changed, going to a more streamlined link system under the Cover Photo.

Key Takeaway: These Page changes should benefit your business by (1) making it easier for users to view your key business information in the left column and (2) improving the flow of Post content on your Page. The two-column design made it difficult to read and easy to get distracted by other Posts.

Both of these updates will also provide a better experience for users who come to your Page via Graph Search, helping them find the information they’re looking for more quickly.

[Mobile News] Study Finds More than 30% of Consumers Use Mobile Exclusively

News Source: Marketing Land

A new study from xAd and Telemetrics this week confirms what we’ve all been hearing for a couple of years: Mobile is a key discovery channel for local consumers, and it’s only growing in importance.

Half of survey respondents consider mobile to the “most important resource” in their purchase decision-making process, and more than a third said they use mobile exclusively.

Additionally, the study found that mobile users tend to be the most likely to make a purchase: 53% of mobile shoppers called a business and 65% completed a purchase the same day as they performed a search. 64% of these purchases happened in store.

Pricing and location tend to be the two most important factors for mobile shoppers; deals also have an impact on promoting conversions.

Key Takeaway: We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again—making sure your business’s key content is accessible via mobile is crucial. If your website, online listings, menu, list of products & services, and location / contact information aren’t available on or optimized for mobile, now is the time to make it happen!

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Small Businesses Slow to Adopt Social Customer Service

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Customer Service News] Survey Says few Businesses Employ Social Customer Service

News Source: Roundpeg

A recent study from marketing strategy agency Roundpeg shows that few small businesses are using social media to field customer service requests. 66% of surveyed B2C businesses said they rely on social media to stay in touch with customers, but less than 20% are using social channels to resolve customer service inquiries.

B2B respondents were slightly more inclined to provide social customer service (29%), but generally spend less time on social engaging with customers than B2C companies.

Key Takeaway: Consumers are turning to social media to voice questions, complaints, and suggestions to companies of all sizes, but the majority of small businesses aren’t contributing to the conversation. Don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to connect with clients and resolve issues more quickly. Even if you only have time to check your social accounts once a day, you can have a positive impact on individual customers and your social followers by responding promptly and helpfully to inquiries.

[Mobile News] U.S. Local Mobile Search Outpaces Global Markets

News Source: Street Fight Mag

According to recent research culled by Bonial International Group, the U.S. is still the clear leader in the local mobile search space, but international markets are starting to catch up.

60% of all search traffic in the US comes from mobile devices, and that percentage is expected to keep growing as smartphone sales increase year over year. Data from BIA/Kelsey also showed that 40% of mobile searches in 2012 were local. By 2016, analysts project that local mobile searches will surpass local desktop searches by 27 billion queries per year. That’s a lot of searches!

While the U.S. is the frontrunner in local mobile search right now, other countries are also starting to see rapid growth. Brazil almost doubled their mobile search traffic between 2012 and 2013; Germany mobile adoption is at 48%, with France and Russia both clocking in at 37%. Local mobile search has taken off in Russia particularly, growing from 7.6% of mobile searches in 2012 to 27.72% as of February 2014.

Key Takeaway: Local mobile search isn’t just a passing fad—it’s becoming the new standard way of finding local businesses, especially in the U.S. where smartphone adoption is high. All the more reason for small businesses to make sure their websites, online listings, menus, and product & service lists are accessible and easy to read on mobile devices.

Need help? Find out how SinglePlatform can optimize your product and service content for mobile!

[Restaurant News] Yelp Launches Proprietary Reservation System

News Source: Tech Crunch

Last week, Yelp announced the launch of a new free Reservations service based on technology from SeatMe, the OpenTable competitor it acquired in 2013.

Any restaurant that has claimed its Yelp profile page can now use Reservations to take bookings on the review site—all for no fee. SeatMe’s integrated (and more sophisticated) booking service used on restaurant websites will remain $99 a month.

Key Takeaway: Adding bookings to its local listings is a natural next step for Yelp as the company strives to keep up with competitors like OpenTable and Google. Providing a way for consumers to close the loop by making a reservation will benefit both customers and restaurants. It’ll also help Yelp by increasing its visitors’ time on site and boosting internal advertising and marketing revenue.

Will you be trying Yelp Reservations for your business? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Small Businesses Find Profit in Customer Loyalty

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

Small Businesses Find Profit in Customer Loyalty

News Source: MediaPost

A joint study released by BIA/Kelsey and Manta this week found that small business owners are finally starting to invest in customer retention and brand loyalty.

61% of participants reported that more than half of their annual revenue comes from repeat customers, and noted that repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers.

86% of surveyed entrepreneurs spend the majority of their annual marketing budget to retain customers rather than acquire new customers, and 80% spend most of their time and effort fostering repeat business.

While small businesses are focusing their marketing efforts on retention rather than acquisition, they’re still lagging behind on the loyalty program front. Only 34% of respondents have a program in place, and most of these programs are offline, making it difficult to gauge success.

Key Takeaway: Acquiring new customers is both costly and challenging, so it makes sense that business owners are investing in strengthening existing customer relationships. However, without making good use of technology to track retention efforts, small businesses are missing out on valuable data that could help them assess which efforts are working and which aren’t. Protip: Constant Contact provides a great suite of tools that will help you keep customers engaged and allow you to track your efforts.

[Social Media News] Google+ Brand Posts See Twice as Much Engagement as Twitter Posts

News Source: Mashable

Everyone in the marketing community loves to hate on Google+, but a new survey from Forrester Research provides reason to take the social network more seriously. According to the 60,000-participant survey, 22% visited Google+ within the last 30 days—equivalent to the number of visitors on Twitter.

Furthermore, the study investigated more than 3 million user interactions with over 2,500 posts by brands and found that Google+ post engagement is much higher than engagement on Twitter, and almost as high as post engagement on Facebook.

Key Takeaway: To borrow words from Forrester researcher Nate Elliott: “If you’re not actively marketing on Google Plus, it’s time to start.”

[Social Media News] LinkedIn Retiring Products and Services Tab on Company Pages

News Source: Business 2 Community

LinkedIn announced this week that they’re retiring the Products and Services tab on company pages as of April 14th. To date, this tab has been the place where businesses have been able to showcase their goods to potential employees and customers.

Two relatively new features have made the old Products and Services tab obsolete:

  1. The introduction of Company Updates
  2. The launch of Showcase Pages

Both features require an active involvement from the business in lieu of a static description.

Key Takeaway: Think of this change as an opportunity to illustrate your business’s products and services dynamically. Instead of a boring text blurb, you’re now able to share links, photos, and promotions with your LinkedIn followers. You’ll be more likely to engage your followers and better equipped to showcase your unique offerings.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!