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Using modern social media for your small business

Everyone tells you how important Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are to your business. And they’re right – any social media presence should include these mainstays. But the landscape is changing. New social media platforms are drawing in more users and creating more spaces for you to put your brand out there. 

Apps like TikTok and Snapchat are seeing a growth in popularity that shows no sign of slowing down, and once-obscure older platforms like Reddit are becoming more mainstream. The fresh formats of these platforms offer new opportunities for creative advertising that will help you appeal to the next generation of social media users. But not all platforms are right for all businesses. So how and where do you dive in?

- TikTok 

- Snapchat 

- Pinterest 

- Twitter Spaces 

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TikTok

Maybe the clearest new trend in social media, TikTok is only about 6 years old, but already has 1 billion users around the world, with 689 million consistently active. And it’s not just a Gen Z trend either – TikTok’s user base spans multiple demographics. 

TikTok uses a short video format for posting, which allows you to add a personal touch to your products and make deeper connections with audiences. The use of augmented reality-like filters creates a space for humour that other platforms don’t have, making TikTok one of the best social media platforms for small business marketing. 

TikTok is free and available to download on any mobile device, and you can make an account in seconds, complete with a short bio introducing customers to your business. You have so many ways to enhance and edit your videos, from stickers and GIFs to emojis, filters, and augmented reality, that make it easy for you to put your personality on display. 

Because of this range of options, figuring out what kinds of content you want to create can be tricky. There are lots of great ways to engage with your audience, including: 

  • Product demonstrations: the most important feature of video-based marketing is to let your customers see your products being used. Watching these demonstrations gets people to picture themselves using the product, and customers who can imagine themselves using a product are more likely to buy it. 

  • Tutorial videos: show your customers how to use something, but teach them a specific thing. For example, if you sell food, you might teach a recipe that uses your product. 

  • Song parodies: this is pretty unique to TikTok and it’s how the app first rose to fame. The idea for small businesses is to change song lyrics so you’re singing about your products. Combining humour and top-40 earworms is the perfect way to keep your brand at the top of peoples’ minds.

  • Hashtag challenges: this is a great way for your business to be seen by people already following hashtags relevant to your product. You can even start your own challenge as a way to engage more users. 

If there’s one thing connecting all these ideas, it’s personalisation. The intimacy and personal connection TikTok offers is why so many people love it. 

Snapchat

A lot of people tend to dismiss Snapchat as a potential marketing tool, because of the split second, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it format of the app. It doesn’t seem to lend itself well to advertising if the ads are gone as soon as you stop looking at them. 

But businesses, especially retail ones, do have success on Snapchat, promoting new products and posting entertaining content, including polls and behind-the-scenes footage. Since Snapchat posts and stories disappear soon after being viewed, word of mouth is essential to using it to grow your business. 

The folk at Snapchat seem to have realised that their platform wasn’t ideal for advertising, because they’ve introduced Snapchat Ads. A Snapchat Ad is a 10-second full screen video that shows up in between friends’ stories, that users can swipe up on to interact with. You can set the swipe to bring users to a website, a longer video, an article, or an app download page. 

Anyone can make a Snapchat ad and they can be pretty inexpensive. Because Snapchat is a relatively untapped market and also a smaller one, it’s easier to stand out. You can even target your ads to users based on their prior activity. 

There are a few different types of ads available to you depending on what fits your product best. You can choose to create: 

  • Single image or video ads: this is exactly what it sounds like. Just add an attachment to the image or video so users can swipe up on it, and that’s all. The best length for videos is a few seconds long. 

  • Collection ads: with these, you can include four entries that users can tap on to get more information. It’s an easy way to let customers browse your products without leaving Snapchat. 

  • Story ads: these appear in the Discover feed and let you add 3 to 20 snaps. That way you can show off new offers, seasonal deals, discounts, or a product line. 

  • Lenses: Snapchat lets you choose from hundreds of 3D images, effects, and animations to build customised AR ads that users can play around with and share with their friends. 

  • Commercials: these are ads that can’t be skipped for 6 seconds, and they can be up to 3 minutes long. If you need to get a longer message to your audience, this is the way to do it. 

Snapchat ads are quick to create, versatile, and depending on the type of ad, interactive. And because of the targeting options available, it’s easy to reach your target audience. 

Pinterest

Pinterest users browse, save and get inspired by content relating to various hobbies, whether it be gardening, home decor, fashion, cooking, or anything else. Users already have the option to buy things they see straight from the site, and many do just that – Pinterest is filled with more people who intend to purchase things than any social media platform. 

Pinterest content is shared in images, which are stored on boards organised into themes to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for. To increase your engagement with the wider community, Pinterest allows you to follow and be followed, and also to turn your boards into group boards. 

Pinterest also offers free business accounts. With a business account, you can access Pinterest Analytics, better search tools, and the option to upload video Pins, which customers are about 50% more likely to click on. You also have the option to pay to run Pinterest Ads. 

There are a few different types of Pinterest Ads, which customers can click to be taken to your website or checkout page. Each type is useful, but some make more sense depending on what you’re selling. Your options for Pinterest Ads are: 

  • Standard Pins: one image or video. Users can see that these are promoted ads.

  • Carousel Ads: multiple images or videos users can swipe through. And each of these are individually linkable, so you could direct customers to multiple pages from just one post. 

  • Shopping Pins: targeted directly toward users deciding what to buy, these Pins are ideal for promoting your latest (or most popular) products. You can add dots to your Pinned image highlighting the products available for sale, and make those dots link to your product webpage. 

  • App Install Pins: where other Pins are designed to get customers buying from you or at least visiting your website, these are designed to get customers to download your app. They have an install button built right into them, and there’s space for you to list a few of your app’s most relevant features. 

Pinterest is ideal for small business owners looking to connect with their niche because of the social aspect of Pinterest communities forming around common interests. Not to mention that anyone on Pinterest already has shopping on their mind. 

Reddit

Until recently, Reddit wasn’t as broadly popular as it is now, but today it is better understood just how many people use it. The site’s slogan is “the front page of the internet”, and with billions of visits per month it’s easy to see why. Reddit content that finds its way onto other social media sites also tends to be some of the most popular content on those sites. 

Here’s what’s tricky about it: Reddit doesn’t work like most other social media platforms. Your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter strategies will come off as tone-deaf if applied to Reddit. Users are completely anonymous, for one thing, and the only thing that’s similar to other social media is the ability to upvote or downvote (Reddit’s terms for liking or disliking) posts. 

Users publish content as links, text, images, or videos, and that content is then either seen by more people because it’s upvoted or buried because people didn’t like it. And beyond just posting on the generic ‘Home’ page, Reddit is separated into specific communities called subreddits – sometimes almost impossibly specific, like the subreddit for cat paws. 

Reddit is incredibly community-oriented, and subreddits often explicitly prohibit advertising. At the same time, users love discussing the pros and cons of products they either have or are thinking of buying, precisely because of the unfiltered exchanges that the site makes possible. 

So what do you do with this information? There are still ways to interact with potential customers on Reddit. If you want to take advantage of everything the platform offers, you can: 

  • Search for customer feedback: because customers love discussing products on Reddit, it’s a great place to hear what people are saying about you without having to ask. You can also keep an eye on what they think of your competitors. It’s important that you resist the urge to take part in these conversations and just let the information flow. 

  • Give support and recommendations: instead of always trying to sell something, focus on offering support and troubleshooting. Using Reddit as an extension of customer service has worked well for many brands and helps prove that they care about their customers. 

  • Do an AMA (ask me anything): AMA events are a mainstay of Reddit and crop up all the time. They’re a great way for you to engage directly with customers and make sure others see your brand. And a robust back-and-forth with a customer adds a personal touch to your business.

Though one of the toughest social media platforms to advertise with, Reddit can also be one of the most rewarding. The passion and dedication of its users will give you the data you’re looking for very quickly if you let it happen organically. 

Twitter Spaces

Twitter may not be a new social media platform, but Twitter Spaces is a new feature of it. Available to anyone with more than 600 followers, Twitter Spaces lets you create and host audio conversations with up to 10 other speakers (but unlimited participants). It’s a bit like an interactive podcast. All Twitter Spaces are public, meaning anyone can join and exit one at any time. 

Twitter Spaces let you control who has speaking privileges and to quickly report or block people as needed. Twitter also saves the data from the Space after it has ended, which includes recordings and transcriptions, so hosts can have a record of the Space and speakers can access records of everything they said. 

So why is Twitter Spaces relevant to small businesses? Well, it gives you all sorts of valuable information and lets you do a few cool things. With it, you can: 

  • Easily gather audience feedback: because of the format of a Twitter Space it can be as formal or informal as you want it to be, which means you’re free to have real conversations with your audience. Also, gathering participants and data is easy, since Twitter’s user base is huge and the transcripts of what was said are recorded. 

  • Announce new products/features: you can use your Twitter Space to reach your followers and tell them about a new offer or product. Then you can also answer any questions they might have about it and learn what they would want to see in the future. 

  • Host discussions related to your field: not all your activity has to be about promoting your own business. By having discussions about the industry at large, you position yourself at the forefront of your field. This also makes networking easier, since it opens the door for anyone in your field to participate. 

Twitter Spaces is exciting because it adds the dimension of audio sessions to what is already one of the biggest social media platforms out there. It also makes interacting with your audience possible on a much larger scale, since there’s no more waiting for replies to your post or responses to your survey. Then, once you download the transcript, you have a gold mine of actionable data you can use. 

As always, which social platform you choose to invest your time in depends on where your audience is. The new wave of social media is expanding how users relate to each other and how businesses can relate to their audience. Now is the perfect time to expand the ways you can engage too. If you’re interested in using social media to boost your sales, find out how SumUp can help. 

Max Elias