Using social media to grow your business

The business of social media is a booming business. Countless books cover the topic and entire businesses have grown into successful agencies just by offering their prowess on social media channels as part of greater digital strategies.

Using social media yourself can be a fantastic way to drive growth in terms of engaging new customers and converting these relationships into sales. However, the biggest mistake businesses continue to make (though this is slowly changing) is underestimating the commitment necessary for a successful digital strategy. And this heavily includes social media strategy and development. Within companies, there can be entire teams of people dedicated to the growth of social media channels and it is businesses that think they can do a post once-in-a-while on twitter that never get anywhere with their social media accounts and thus miss the opportunity to turn social channels into real and significant sources for revenue. So how do you get started?

Pick a path

If you do decide that you want to commit time and possibly money into your social channels, the first step is deciding what social media you will use. It makes perfect sense for a restaurant or café to use Instagram to drive growth and bums on seats because it is a visual social channel and a restaurant is a sensory business. Instagram can be a highly effective way to build communities and long term customers for businesses that provide a real and visible product. On the other hand, a freelance consultant, financial advisor or a plumber are not going to get much out of Instagram because they offer less materially visible or enticing services and so would be better off targeting customers through Facebook and Twitter. If your business is B2B than you might want to consider throwing LinkedIn into the mix.

The best way to decide what channels you will use is to separate the decision into two. First, define what service your business offers and as such what channels suit your business. Second, define who your customers are. This definition will help you decide what social media is suitable for your customers. If you are targeting men over the age of 40 then Instagram, which has a younger and predominantly female audience, would not suit your needs.

Cultivate communities

Like a garden, your social media presence needs to be grown simply and slowly. This means giving enough attention to every individual interaction on social media so that you can grow individual communities. These separate interactions announce your activity to Google and helps boost your presence on its search results pages. On top of this, these interactions and micro-communities you build eventually build on top of one another to form a general social community that you can then engage with in a more general way. Focussing on these micro-communities will help safeguard you from overt self-promotion.

Because of this particular way in which social media can grow, it is important to set yourself goals. Make them specific and realistic. These goals, in terms of growth and your particular commitments, can help guide you as to where you should be targeting your efforts. For instance, set yourself a goal about the percentage of self-promotion posts compared to posts that are more general and relate to your industry.

Integrate and invest

Maintain a clear connection between your social channels and your website. Your website is your base and there is no point in directing new audiences and potential customers to a website that is either inactive and/or isn’t informative and fundamentally useful to customers. As well as with your website, integrate your social media activity with a digital strategy on whole. This includes social media, website activity, newsletters and if it suits, a blog.

Using social media tools (, Hootsuite, Iconosquare, SocialFlow for example) will allow you to more easily manage and integrate your social media channels, saving you time and money. And talking of money, consider investing in boosting posts and then analysing how effective these boosts have on particular kinds of posts and social media channels. This ongoing analysis is fundamental to growing your social media channels and is intertwined with the goals that you set yourself.

Tip: work with GooglePlus to increase your business’s presence and searchability.

Other articles on Starting Out