Using Facebook and Instagram for Small Businesses

facebook and instagram
Long gone are the early days of the internet, when computers were prohibitively expensive and smartphones were yet to exist. Almost as long gone are the early days of social media, when people assembled on message boards as the primary online social medium.  MySpace has come and gone. Social media is an integral part of modern life, and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s essential that businesses harness specific social media to thrive in today’s economic landscape. Today, the reigning platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. LinkedIn is also important, but it serves a more niche purpose, appealing mainly to white-collar professionals. YouTube and Vimeo count, but they too serve more niche purposes and are less important for most businesses.  Figuring out social media usage for businesses can be a challenge. Hopefully, if you already have social media accounts for your business, we can help you utilize them a little more efficiently. We’ll focus specifically on Facebook and Instagram, two long-reigning social media behemoths for this blog post. Look for information on the other platforms in future posts.

What’s the Point of Different Social Media Platforms?

Let’s start with Facebook.

Though it’s past its heyday, Facebook remains a hugely important play in the social media landscape. As of the second quarter of 2020, Facebook had 2.7 billion monthly active users — it’s by far the most prominent social platform. That’s more than a quarter of the world’s entire population! With such a massive potential audience, Facebook remains a necessity for most business owners. It’s free to create a Facebook page for your business, so why wouldn’t you?  You can use it to interact with customers and field their messages, as well as share news and events related to your business. You can list hours, contact information, photos, and so on. This is especially useful if you don’t have a website — of all the social media platforms, Facebook works best as a stand-in for an actual website if you don’t have the time, money, or other resources to create one. You can also run ads on Facebook, which does cost real money, not just your time. However, you can easily define a target audience and a budget, making sure the demographics of people local to you who you want to attract to your business see the ads. Facebook remains the most essential social media platform for any business selling goods or services, including clothing shops, restaurants, dry cleaners, salons, contractors, you name it.

Instagram is just about as essential as Facebook, at least for most businesses.

They’re actually owned by Facebook, too. The platform may not have as many monthly users as its parent, but 1 billion is still an extremely significant number.  The platform remains principally a place to share photos and videos — visuals rule Instagram. Users, including businesses, can set up a profile where they can create a profile picture, write their name, their location, link to a website of their choice, and write a brief bio. There are other features, but these are the main ones. Users scroll through a long, endless (depending on how many accounts they follow) column of photos and videos when using Instagram. As a business owner, if you plan on using Instagram to post visual assets, you need to make sure your content stands out.  That means you should only use the platform if what you sell is visually appealing or can be photographed to appear so. Because of how the platform’s algorithm works, posts are placed higher on the feed depending on several factors. To truly utilize Instagram best and get eyes on your content, you want to post frequently. Post during times when people are most likely to be looking at their phone, such as in the morning, lunch, and the end of the workday.  Businesses well-suited for Instagram include clothing stores, salons, restaurants, and any other type that sells a visually appealing product. It’s a great way to share business updates and timely specials, too, especially if you use the story function.  “Stories” are seen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even some other social media platforms, though they originated on Snapchat, another social media platform, but not one that businesses need to worry about. Basically, they’re posts that only last for 24 hours, and you can post as many of them as you like without worrying about ruining the integrity of your main profile’s photo grid.  This is the best place to share timely specials. It’s much more effective to use them on Instagram rather than Facebook due to the inherently visual focus of the platform.  In the past couple of years, Instagram has also introduced a shopping feature, which is especially helpful for businesses, such as clothing boutiques, that ship product. If that’s you, be sure to take advantage of this convenient feature. You can post a photo featuring a product, and users can click on that product and quickly purchase it, all within the app.

How Important is Social Media in My Marketing Plan?

It’s important to remember that social media isn’t everything. It should only be part of a greater business marketing plan. Don’t let social media take up too much of your time, either.  For some businesses, like restaurants, it’s essential to post very frequently and hold your potential customers’ attention. It’s important to post happy hour deals and daily specials. But another business, like a dry cleaner, doesn’t have to do this, and you shouldn’t force it. If you don’t have much to post, that’s alright. When people have heard of your business already and want to learn a little more about it, they’ll search for your social media accounts regardless. Just make sure that those accounts display up-to-date and relevant information on things like location, hours, and special deals. To reach people local to you, it’s still important to rely on things like billboard advertising and grocery store advertising. You can always rest assured people will see these ads, unlike on social media, where they might quickly scroll past. For the best marketing plan, use a mixture of social media marketing and real-world advertising. Remember: don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

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