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Social media marketing for SMEs

Nowadays, there's no underestimating the power of social media for SMEs. Having a presence on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is no longer considered a novelty; it's essential for business success.

There are more than 1.35 billion Facebook users, while over 284 million people access Twitter on a monthly basis. So, if your small business has a presence on these channels, it could potentially be viewed by millions of people across the globe.

There is no doubt that social media is the most effective marketing tool for increasing exposure, reaching out to your target audience and generating leads. And, considering the fact that social media marketing strategies cost little to implement, it can deliver outstanding ROI for your small business.

That said, a successful social strategy takes time and effort; if you want to reap the full benefits of social media, your sites need to be regularly updated with relevant and unique content. This is easy for big businesses with dedicated social teams but for SMEs, it can be difficult finding the time to maintain your sites.

Nevertheless, if you own a small business, here are some tried-and-tested tricks that can help you achieve social success:

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

When it comes to social posting, timing is everything. You must identify when your audience are most active on social media, and then ensure that you post relevant and engaging content during those times. Bear in mind that "active" doesn't just mean your audience is online: you want to reach them when they have the time to click on your links, check out your posts and comment on your content.

What is known as the 'peak posting time' will vary between each channel. Facebook engagement, for instance, tends to be highest nearing the end of the week, from Thursday to Sunday. During the week, peak times are when people are commuting to work, between 7.30am-8.30am in the morning and 4.30pm-6.30pm in the evening, as well as 12.00-2.00pm in the afternoon during lunch breaks.

Peak times on Twitter differ slightly. Social media expert, Dan Zarrella, says that late afternoon and early evening tweets generate higher click-through rates (CTRs) than morning tweets. Similar to Facebook, tweets sent later in the week tend to generate more user engagement.

You should aim to post at least 2-3 times a day on each social site, including on the weekends. If you don't really want to be managing your social accounts during your days off, utilise tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite, which will enable you to schedule weekend posts beforehand.

USE IMAGES

Photo posts are great for engaging your audience and boosting your following. According to Zarrella, image posts get the most likes, comments and shares on Facebook compared with any other content, including videos, links and text. In fact, research from web analytics firm KISSmetrics revealed that photos on Facebook attract 104% more comments, 84% more click-throughs and 53% more 'likes.'

Yet, the rate of engagement depends on what type of photos you post. Pictures that receive the highest engagement tend to be ones which are self-explanatory and don't need a caption. These include things like infographics, charts, memes, or visual 'how-to' guides.

Refrain from posting generic stock images, as you�re unlikely to see high levels of engagement from using them. Sharing personal, unique pictures of your team, business and products will help give your company a 'human face,' which can help distinguish you from your competitors.

ENCOURAGE ENGAGEMENT

Social media offers the opportunity for you to engage in conversation with your audience, you should be encouraging users to respond and react to your posts. If you have something to share, ask people for their opinion on it: a report from Buddy Media found that Facebook posts containing a question generate 92% more comments than those without.

On Twitter, encouraging people to retweet your posts is a great way to boost engagement levels. The social network recommends that using the initials 'RT' is the best way to guarantee the sharing of your tweets.

Running promotions or competitions are a great way to encourage engagement on any social channel. Buzzwords you should use include 'giveaway,' 'win,' and 'winner.' However, refrain from using phrases like 'coupon,' 'clearance,' or '% off' when describing offers.

So long as you identify the best times to reach your audience, and ensure your posts are targeted and engaging, you will be well on your way to social media success.

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