By Paul Ellis | @PaulEllisUK

Many small businesses I speak to have a fairly low regard for using social media for business. Their attitudes to social media include that it is irrelevant; using it but it doesn’t work or tried it and it didn’t work; or simply don’t have the time for it.

If this is your attitude, then I strongly recommend a rethink. Why? Well, most forms of outbound marketing techniques are becoming less and less effective. Time and money spent on online or offline advertising, direct marketing, emails, telemarketing and even some aspects of digital marketing is, frankly, wasted!

If you don’t believe this, then ask yourself, when was the last time you responded positively let alone actually acted upon any form of outbound marketing? Did you welcome the interruption? Did you click on that banner ad or respond to the spam or even pick up the phone when you saw a print advert? At best, you may have made a mental note to follow-up or look the business up in the future. But, more likely, you resented the interruption and at best you will ignore and forget about them.

Would you want to be wasting your money like that?

There is a better alternative. It is time to get serious about social for your business!

Here are ten steps to take to make social media marketing effective for your business.

You need to ‘be in it to win it’: This may seem like a “doh! Obviously…” thing to say, but most small businesses are only partly ‘in’ social media. There are several different types of social media platforms and networks and you need to be active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. You can, of course, have differing levels of activity, but you need to be on them and have your accounts all linked up, it matters!

Continuously build out your network: This is perhaps the hardest part in which to build momentum. However, it is very much like rolling a snowball. The more people you add, the more visible you become and the easier it is to grow. An effective process is to search for the topics that are relevant to your business and follow those who post about them. Then check them out and follow people from within their networks that are relevant and interesting. Then check out the new people you have followed and repeat the above. Don’t be tempted to buy followers or pay someone to grow your network rapidly.

Share, share and share again: Whilst building out your networks you will come across great content and posts from other people. Share it on – ideally make a comment– pointing out why you think it is great. By sharing great content, you build a reputation within the ‘subject matter area’ and you will help to build your network as a consequence.

Can you do XXX? No, but I know someone who can! – The adage of what goes around comes around, or the law of mutual back scratching is never truer than on social media! Freely refer people from within your network and be sure you are known for your areas of expertise also.

Be generous with your views: THIS IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT – Don’t skimp on it! Do you have an opinion on things? Have knowledge and expertise? Can offer tips and pointers on how to do stuff? Well write it down and share it, even create a video or two! Creating useful and interesting content is the key to driving social media effectiveness and ultimately generating inbound enquiries to your business. You can create a blog site either attached to your website or on a hosted blog site like Blogger or You can also publish on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse or simply write some short posts on Facebook.

Tell the world: Make sure when you create content you tell people about it. Not just on Twitter but all the networks you use.  Cross-link and cross-post across your different platforms. Tag people or brands whom you have quoted or referenced and also people you think would be interested. Do this at least five times with different headlines and on at least three different platforms. Finally aim to do this at least once every two weeks as a minimum, ideally once a week. Write it on a Sunday afternoon or whenever you can find a little time – little and often is better than something meaty every three or four months.

Get visual! Pictures make us pause; they are easy to take in and they grab our attention for a brief moment. Pictures help your content get noticed and your audience is more likely to read on and engage – even if it is simply to share your post to their networks. Good headlines with the picture will greatly increase the likelihood of this.

Do you use hash? Hashtags are everywhere now and whilst you do not want to overdo it, you do need to make sure your posts have 3-5 pertinent hashtags. They label your content and help people find it easily, especially those outside of your network. You can now use hashtags on all the main social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and now LinkedIn. The best way to use them is keywords from the post headline, then supplement your post at the end with other associated topic hashtags.

Top 10 things to track: (The list within a list) – As with anything worthwhile you need to be able to track your progress and see how effective different activities are. Social media growth does take time, but it does not take years. Done right you can have a network of thousands in just a few months. The top 10 things you should track are:

  • Overall audience / network size and growth of your network over time (split out by each of your networks).
  • New followers / Unfollowers. Prune those that unfollow you if they are not adding any other value to your network i.e. as a source of relevant content.
  • Reach and engagement of your social network posts (including retweets, shares and mentions).
  • Most influential / engaged members of your network (review size of their networks and level of activity).
  • Popularity and engagement of your content (views, likes, shares and comments).
  • Comparison of engagement using different post headlines.
  • Competitor activity on social media (active on your target hashtags and area of interest).
  • Business time and money spent on social media activities (necessary to build a Return on Investment view).
  • Inbound enquiries from social media and what content triggered the enquiry.
  • Revenue associated with social media activity (sales from inbound enquiries, referrals, customer retention and repeat business).

You can find most of this information included within the social network’s own analytics tools as well as some third-party tools.

Get Tooled Up! By now you are probably thinking, “I was right… I don’t have time for all this!”. Well, using the right tools will make all the difference. YOU can run a base level social media marketing program spending as little as 30 minutes a day. On average, I spend an hour a day split up into 20-minute chunks, morning, lunchtime and evening. The tools I recommend include:

HootSuite for social media posting, reading and management across all major social networks – web-based and app. This is my first port of call for social media management. It has loads of features but is straightforward to use.

StatusBrew for audience monitoring (followers / unfollowers). A great tool to keep on top of your network, best used every 2-3 days.

Buffer for content and post scheduling. This is the biggest time saver. In the free version, you can schedule 10 items ahead of time meaning if you post six times a day (a good level to aim for) you can have nearly two days pre-scheduled. If you use it daily, then you can always be on top of your social posting calendar. You can also schedule retweets as well. However, I recommend paying for a subscription and then you can load up much more content. For example, you could schedule a week’s worth of content on a Sunday evening and then use your daily time for reacting, replying and managing your network.

Make sure you use the inbuilt analytics features provided by the social networks. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc all provide great insights for free.

LeadFeeder is a premium website analytics tool. This is very useful for analysing visitor traffic, sources and level of engagement. I would recommend this tool once your social program has developed momentum

Another premium product is BrandWatch, which is very useful for tracking social influence, reach and engagement. It also includes extensive reporting and competitor/topic tracking.

Managing a social media program is very much like gardening.

Firstly, you need to put in the continual effort to get the returns: little and often and allow some time for organic growth. Secondly, know what you are doing. Nurture and encourage growth, in other words, make sure you feed it with good content. Thirdly, be sure to weed out the dross and low rewarding parts of your network and focus on developing and giving value. This technique will be the most fruitful. Finally, be aware of and learn to be effective with the best tools available.

Of course, not everybody has the inclination to invest the time in gardening. Which is when you should hire in some gardening services! In which case get in touch with us, Digital Leadership Associates, at

Digital Leadership Associates 

Digital Leadership Associates is an agency that helps companies move to digital and social. It was set up by social media guru and best-selling social media author, Adam Gray @agsocialmedia and social selling innovator and pioneer Tim Hughes @timothy_hughes who was recently named number one on Onalytica’s list of the most influential social sellers globally.

Digital Leadership Associates is a team of world-leading social media experts. We bring a breadth of experience, honed by working with some of the world’s biggest brands, to you, delivering a shortcut on your social journey. We help you to achieve your key business goals through three unique programs; Social Strategy definition and implementation, Social Selling training and mentoring; and Social Presence management.

We will help you define a social media strategy and whole-business understanding of your social vision. We equip your sales team with the tools and knowledge to become skilled at social selling and we offer partial/whole management of your social presence. 

DLA’s advice and guidance is given by actual social practitioners, that is people with actual experience in social media, social and digital transformations.

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