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Plusnet Pioneers

The must-follow rules for social media marketing success

Social media is a constantly-evolving marketing space for small businesses. Here, top UK entrepreneurs reveal their absolute dos and don’ts for success

The world of social media is always in flux, making it difficult for small businesses to stay ahead of the game. However, if you follow these top tips, you won’t go far wrong.

We’ve gathered a group of inspiring entrepreneurs including Social Chain co-founder, Steven Bartlett, LDN Muscle (LDNM) co-founders, Tom and James Exton, and innocent drinks and JamJar Investments co-founder, Richard Reed, to share their advice to help ensure you are ticking the right boxes if you want to grow your business on social media.

These entrepreneurs have been brought together by business broadband and phone provider, Plusnet, and as part of Plusnet Pioneers – a series of exciting content designed to help small businesses face some of the biggest challenges in funding and marketing.

Our Plusnet Pioneers reveal the key insights they’ve learnt since starting and growing successful businesses including: why it’s vital to produce emotional content, why you need to nip negative comments in the bud immediately, and why having lots of followers doesn’t always equal success.

The four dos of social media success

DO appeal to your customers emotions

With brands increasingly competing for attention online, Steven Bartlett says you need to make consumers feel something if you want to stand out.

Steven: “Because of the way social media platforms are today, if you don’t make people feel something, you’re not heard. Marketeers and media planners spend tremendous amounts of money buying media and then put completely indifferent, vanilla messaging on it that makes people feel nothing.

“They need to appreciate the super busy world that everybody else lives in, where there’s a lot of other marketing content online competing with yours for their attention. To stand out, you’ve got to create content that will engage and entertain your audience.”

DO make your branding stand out and consistent across all channels

The Exton twins explain why clear, consistent and eye-catching branding is key if you want to gain followers on social media.

James’ essential advice is to “make sure that all your social media accounts have the same user handle so there’s consistency and customers can find you easily.

“Once you’ve done that, you can get an idea of what your messaging on social media is going to consistently be, with common themes and ideas that relate to your audience, rather than just arbitrarily posting something that’s a bit random.”

Tom agrees: “Make sure there’s something bright and engaging on your social media feeds so it catches people’s eye and make sure your branding is clear.

“There are so many brands on social media where it’s not immediately clear what they’re about and there’s nothing memorable or catchy about what they’re posting.”

DO choose a social media platform that suits your business

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. They all offer businesses different benefits and not every single one will be right for your company.

Steven: “We live in a world where there are so many different types of social media platforms and it’s incredibly hard as a business owner to know which platform you should be using, especially if you’re under-resourced or a small business.

“The first thing is understanding how these platforms fit into the ecosystem of the social media world. If you are a fashion brand then you want to look for a platform that a) targets your key audience, and b) allows you to tell the story of your brand in all its glory such as Instagram. If you’re a company that puts on a lot of big events, Twitter is the only real home for you, because it has a reverse chronological timeline that allows search, enabling users to always see the latest, most relevant content.”

DO deal with negative comments immediately

For a new business, negative comments on social media can be discouraging – but it’s vital you don’t ignore them and let the negativity grow.

James: “At the outset, reputation is probably the most important element that could stifle your growth. If you do get someone that has had a bad experience just give them a quick reply. They’ll normally remove their negative comment because they understand the frustrations on both sides and your reputation is kept intact.”

Tom: “That’s very important, especially on platforms like Twitter. Negativity and abuse can spiral, so if you can nip that in the bud and try and take someone from Tweeting you to direct messaging you instead, you can usually solve the problem more quickly. There are very few people who can’t be calmed down. Some companies ignore it. It’s very important that you jump on it because it can easily get out of hand.”

The four don’ts of social media success

DON'T make the mistake of thinking everyone will care, you need to make them care

Just because you’ve put months, or even years, of effort into building your company’s social media presence that doesn’t mean you deserve to win followers and customers. You need to make them care – as Steven found out.

Steven: “The biggest trap that small businesses can fall into is not being able to put themselves in the shoes of their customer, and falling into the trap of thinking that everybody cares about them.

“I slowly realised that nobody cared about me, and nobody cared how hard I’d worked and my job wasn’t to get them to care about me, it was to show them what Wallpark could do for them. And that shift took me out of my own little bubble and I started competing and trying to win attention by posting engaging and exciting content as opposed to thinking I was entitled to it.”

DON'T just sell – add value to the lives of your customers

It can be tempting to oversaturate your social channels with sales content with the mistaken belief that people will buy from you immediately. As Steven and Tom explain, this is not the case.

Tom: “Ensure that the content you’re putting out there has actually got added value. Don’t just start pushing sales messages day in and day out because people are very astute and they know when they’re being sold something. Try and give them something that’s going to add value to their lives and then they’ll come back, and they might read your sales message at a later date and buy something.”

Steven: “You should adopt a ratio of 20:1 – 20 pieces of content that are for them and one sales message. Then, when you post that one thing that’s an advert, you’ve got a bigger, more engaged community and the results long term will be better. If you adopt the other approach – 20 adverts to one piece of content for them – you’ll never build an engaged community in the first place.”

DON'T spend, spend, spend on social media straight away

You may also think that ploughing loads of your hard-earned cash into social media from the outset will deliver return on investment says Richard Reed.

Richard: “It’s too easy to raise the money and then go and spend it on a load of social media. When it comes to social media is ultimately a massive opportunity – you do it right and it’s a way to communicate with the world for free.

“Firstly, let’s see it as this great thing to harness; but secondly, let’s remain proportionate to it. Whilst social media provides many free opportunities for businesses, employing someone full-time to look after your social media accounts can be a major expense. Don’t make it a disproportional cost if it’s not getting you a disproportional benefit.”

DON'T think lots of followers equals revenue and success

Lastly, just because you’ve got a million social media followers doesn’t mean you have a million customers. You still need to put the work in to convert them into buyers.

Richard: “A follower on Facebook is following you ultimately for purposes of entertainment, which is different to a consumer buying your product when they see it in a supermarket at another point in time. Don’t confuse the two. Generally, it’s good to have more awareness out there and you can share your stories, but social media platforms are in the business of consumer attention and not customer conversion.

Steven: “The last point I’d like to touch on is to focus on real engagement instead of impressions. The metrics really count. The metrics that show that someone took an action are the most important. So many of the bigger brands are obsessed by their follower number. They’ll pay tremendous amounts of money to increase that number. What you don’t realise is, you don’t get to speak to all your followers regardless, so it makes much more sense to focus on the content. As clichéd as it sounds, content is king and context is just as important.”

Interviews were conducted as part of the Plusnet Pioneers programme, a series of content created by business broadband and phone provider Plusnet to help the UK’s small businesses grow and reach their full potential.

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.