Making Social Media Work for Small Businesses

 In Small Business Accounting

Struggling to see the value of your social media strategies. If so, you need to get serious about planning budgets, managing spend and measuring results.

Small businesses spend millions on social media each year, but how much of it has an impact? According to one survey, not much, so why do people continue to invest? The answer to that question is that, when done well, social media can be incredibly valuable. The trouble is, most businesses don’t use it in the right way. So, how do you ensure your investment has the desired impact?

A waste of money

The study from Deal with the Media, certainly paints a gloomy picture. Just 30% of UK business owners believe it’s an effective marketing tool while 43% said they were uncertain of its value. On the other hand, social media now accounts for 30% of online time. 75% of customers say they use it as part of the buying process.

Like it or not, if you’re a small business making your way in a competitive market, social media is hard to ignore. Your potential customers are there, they are happy to engage with businesses and under the right circumstances are willing to make purchases. Better still, getting started can be much more affordable than other marketing strategies.

Costs can vary immensely. Depending on how you approach it you could be spending anything from a few hundred pounds each month to £15,000 or more. Most media platforms are free to use, although some, like LinkedIn, do have premium services for which you can pay. Theoretically, therefore, you can start out on social media without spending a penny. You can create accounts, start posting and try to build a profile.

Unfortunately, making noise can be challenging. There are millions of other businesses trying to do exactly the same thing, so it’s very difficult to stand out from the crowd.

The chances are to gain real traction you will need help which is where things can become expensive. You may hire someone to manage your content in-house or go a step further and engage a content marketing agency, you can run adverts or generate truly compelling content. Costs can mount up quite quickly, but what’s worse, if you don’t have clear strategies or objectives in place, there’s no guarantee that any of this investment will deliver results.

Defining your goal

First, you need to define your objective. Without it, your efforts will have little direction and, in all probability, will fall flat.

Here are a few goals to bear in mind:

  • Raising awareness: If you’re new to a market it makes sense to build a profile. You will want to become a thought leader in your chosen industry – someone who drives conversations and to whom people look for information.
  • Selling products: Social media can be a good way to drive direct sales. Advertising promotions or new releases, for example, can encourage people to click through to your site and make a purchase.
  • Expanding reach: Social media is a global platform and your updates could potentially be seen by people all over the world.
  • Research and development: Social media is not just about broadcasting. There’s a huge amount of information out there about your competitors, the wider market and how your product is perceived. If you listen carefully you might gain all sorts of valuable insights.

Budgets and ROI

Controlling finances throughout this process will be crucial. With social media often being seen as a low-cost option it’s easy to lose track of how much is being spent and, if your finances are finely balanced, this could have a serious impact on your cash flow.

When managing your accounts, you need a clear indication of how much is actually being spent on your social media campaigns against your original budget. Good accountancy software or the help of an experienced accountancy firm helps you maintain an effective overview of your spending in real-time.

It can also help add to your metrics surrounding success. This is one of the most difficult areas to get right because success on social media is easily misunderstood. It seems obvious to focus on data such as how many followers you’re gaining or click-throughs and website views. These are all useful but you’re really interested in whether it is driving towards your final goal.

High click-throughs, for example, mean nothing if visitors are leaving after only a few seconds. You want to see evidence that they are staying long enough and taking the action you want to see. So, if you see a low conversion rate of people actually buying a product, it suggests there may be a problem with that page, your price or the product itself.

Social media marketing is an enormous subject, but from an accounts point of view, it is important to keep a tight rein on your spending and to monitor your metrics. Treat it as any other part of your business – you’re investing in a return and if the maths doesn’t add up you should change course.

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