In today’s technology-driven world, getting involved with social media is crucial if you want to attract new customers, spread the word about your products and services, and ultimately grow your business on the web. 
A powerful online marketing tool, when utilised correctly, social media can prove to be highly effective. But simply having a presence on social networks isn’t enough – to truly harness the potential of social media, what you need is a social media marketing strategy. 
 
If you’re ready to take your business to the masses, follow our 10 cost-free, simple steps to successfully grow your business with social media: 
 
1. Choose the right channels 
Getting started on social media can often seem overwhelming with so many different channels to choose from. Popular examples include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, to name but a few. 
 
The important thing to remember is that a consistent presence on a couple of social networks will prove more effective in the long run than posting the odd update here and there across every available platform. 
 
To really get the most out of social media, focus your efforts on the networks where your target audience spends the most time. Do your market research and find out which demographic each platform attracts - for example, 80% of all Pinterest users are female. This will allow you to develop a strong presence where it counts and reach more of the people who matter to your business. 
 
2. Make a good first impression 
Once you’ve decided on your social media accounts, it’s time to make sure they look the part. An extension of your company’s online presence, each social profile needs to convey your professionalism and expertise. 
 
Fuzzy graphics and out of date information simply isn’t going to cut it – take the time to ensure that you’re providing customers with an accurate representation of your business. Fill out your company bio and contact details, and use high quality images that align with the branding on your website for both your profile picture and cover photo. 
 
By completing your profile, you’ll show visitors to your page that you’re an active and engaging business, and will encourage people to follow you and share your content. 
 
3. Check out the competition 
In order to succeed online, you need to keep up with your competitors. Social media is a great research tool in this respect, as it allows you to easily see what the competition is up to, what they’re talking about, who they’re following, and plenty more besides. 
 
By keeping an eye on your competitors’ social media activity, you’ll know how they’re marketing their business online, and how people are reacting, enabling you to see what works – and what doesn’t. This then gives you the perfect opportunity to beat them at their own game, as you’ll know to avoid making the same mistakes, and can instead invest your time and effort into doing what they’ve done well, only better. 
 
At the same time, checking out your competition on social media will give you an idea of what’s already being covered, and can help you identify any openings for your own niche topics and content. 
 
4. Stand out from the crowd 
To really rise above the noise, you have to post quality content on social media. Hundreds upon thousands of messages are posted every day – Twitter for example, sees 6000 new tweets created every second – so what you’re saying needs to be special if it’s going to have any staying power. You need to prove to existing customers and potential customers alike that you are an expert in your field in order to grab attention and build customer loyalty. 
 
Tailor your posts to your target audience and think about what’s relevant to them – by putting yourself in their shoes, you’ll be able to create interesting and useful content that they’ll be encouraged to read, share, and engage with. Your posts also need to take into account the etiquette of each individual social network, so updates should be tailored to different platforms as well. 
 
With so many businesses like yours vying for your customers’ attention, being authentic and engaging, and sharing well-written, targeted posts, will give you your best chance of growing your organic reach on social media. 
 
5. Pick your moments 
As we mentioned before, social media success is all about the strategy. To achieve maximum impact with every post, make sure you’re sharing your updates at the right time to reach the biggest audience possible. 
 
Different networks will have different peak times for posting. Do your research, and come up with a schedule that works for you – for example, Thursday is the most recommended day to post on Facebook, with 1pm being the most active time. 
 
By knowing when the optimum time to post is, you’ll stand a greater chance of people engaging with your business via social media, which in turn will help grow your online presence. 
 
6. Keep up with the trends 
Whilst your business is unlikely to go viral on social media, you can still take advantage of the fast-paced nature of the various platforms by capitalising on trending topics and hashtags. 
 
A fantastic way to increase the circulation of your content, by aligning your social media posts with current trends, you’ll be broadcasting your updates to a much wider audience than your normal reach. Keep an eye on popular topics and the latest news to search out opportunities for promoting your business. 
 
Similarly, by including relevant hashtags in your posts, you’ll put your content in front of more people that care about these subjects, helping you to boost your engagement rate. 
 
7. Use interesting visuals 
Social media posts that include images and videos are the ones that really resonate. People are far more likely to notice and engage with visual posts, with research showing that on Facebook, for example, posts containing images are the most shared, with an 87% interaction rate
 
High quality, relevant, and eye catching graphics are the way to go, and the possibilities for what you can share are endless. Every post should be different, even if you’re promoting the same piece of content or repeating the same message, so you should consider creating and sharing infographics, product photos, image quotes, customer images, staff photos and more to keep your feed varied. 
 
Just remember that every social network has its own set of dimensions, so make sure you resize each image to optimise your posts for that platform. 
 
8. Plan ahead 
Again, the key word here is strategy. Planning your social media posts ahead of time will keep you organised, with a strategic approach making for easier and more efficient management of your various accounts. 
 
Create both a weekly schedule and a content calendar to help you figure out what you’ll post, and when. A calendar will allow you to keep track of upcoming public holidays and events, as well as industry-specific occasions and company milestones, providing you with a guide on what content you need to be creating. 
 
Your weekly schedule will not only give your social media strategy focus, but will also help you identify which post types and timings work for you 
 
9. Talk to your customers 
Don’t be afraid to get involved in the conversation. Social media has changed the business-consumer relationship, and it’s a win-win for companies and customers alike. 
 
People now have easy access to businesses, and can communicate any complaints, questions, or praise in real-time. This is revolutionary for customer service, as it makes it possible to solve problems and manage your customers’ expectations as quickly as possible, as well as showing potential clients your excellent customer support first-hand. 
 
You should actively engage with your audience on social media, and also seek out opportunities to create new conversations with them on a regular basis. 
 
10. Track your progress 
Implementing a social media marketing strategy using all the points above is a waste of time if you’re not doing anything to effectively measure your success. 
 
Without taking the time to evaluate your efforts, it’s impossible to know whether what you’re posting online is really resonating with your audience and bringing you the results you want. Thankfully, the majority of platforms come complete with their own built-in analytics, making it easy for you to track your engagement rate and see if your social media strategy is aligned with your company’s online goals. 
 
By paying attention to the statistics, you’ll gain a clear understanding of which posts of yours are performing the best, allowing you to focus on creating similar content in the future to maximise your online business growth. 
 
So there you have it – follow these 10 simple steps for social media success, and you’ll be in a much better position to reach new customers, build brand awareness, and achieve positive results for your business online, and all at no cost. 
 
Want more digital marketing tips and tricks to help you grow your business? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to keep up to date with all our latest advice. 
 
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