How the self-employed can use social media

Using social media is a productive way to grow your business during the pandemic. Beth Mahoney gives us four ways we can use this time to update our social media and content so we can hit the ground running post-lockdown.

Businesses are struggling due to the coronavirus outbreak. Work is slower than usual, and funds are far tighter. Many businesses are choosing to ‘shut up shop’ and wait for the pandemic to pass. However, this might not be the wisest move to make. Instead of shutting down your business, consider using this time to improve and set yourself up for further growth.

All eyes are currently on newsfeeds. Almost everyone is getting their news and entertainment from social media, which means that now is the ideal time to improve your business’s social media strategy.

It is worth noting here that when it comes to the content you are putting out, it needs to come from an authentic place where you are helping to support the community and not leverage vulnerability of certain groups. Your messaging needs to be on point.

Right now, social media offers a fantastic platform for growing your business and improving your connections. However, you may not feel comfortable dealing with your social media strategy on your own - perhaps you previously outsourced the task to a specialist.

There is no need to panic - we can help. Below we explain how you can plan your social media during this difficult time and boost your business’s growth as a result.

Growing business on social media

1. Schedule your social

Keeping track of your business’s social media posting can seem impossible. How do these companies manage to have a constant flow of content going out each day? Simple: they schedule their content in advance.

Set a day and time each week when you sit down and schedule your business’s social for the next seven days. Or better yet, you could opt to schedule a whole month at a time. If you want to plan your content out beforehand, Google Sheets offers the perfect space.

When it comes to scheduling tools, there are several options to choose from – the most popular of which are Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer, and Content Cal. However, both Sprout Social and Content Cal come with a hefty monthly price tag, and during times like these when funds are already limited you do not want to be paying out for anything that you do not need. 

Luckily, Buffer and Hootsuite offer a free package and work just as well as their paid counterparts.

If you are looking for a platform that is easy to use and understand, even for beginners, then Hootsuite is probably the best scheduling tool for you.

2. Post at the best time

When creating content for social media, one of the key challenges is beating all the noise and ensuring plenty of eyes on your posts. With social media algorithms constantly changing and moving past reverse chronological timelines and towards relevance-related curation, earning engagement can seem far more complex and tactical than in previous years. However, you can give your business the edge simply by knowing when to post on each social media platform.

What is important to bear in mind here is the fact that the best times to post differ from platform to platform and from industry to industry. However, as a rule of thumb, Facebook and Twitter both tend to gain high levels of engagement at around 9 a.m., while the best time to post to Instagram seems to be around 5 p.m. LinkedIn, a platform designed primarily for B2B audiences instead of B2C, has an ideal posting time of between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.

It’s also worth noting that any periods where people have free time – such as at lunchtime (12-2 p.m.), on commutes to and from work (7.30-9 a.m. and 5-6.30 p.m.), and in the evenings (from 8-10 p.m.) – tend to see fairly high rates of engagement.

Of course, at a time like this when there is a global pandemic and the majority of the population is working remotely or is out of work, social media engagement rates tend to spike constantly throughout the day because social media users have a lot more free time than normal.

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3. Create a strategy

The key to success with social media marketing is having a well-planned strategy in place. Without this, you will be posting for the sake of posting. You need to have a number of clearly defined goals to meet. Particularly as, without setting targets, you will find achieving any measurable results difficult. The good news is that Hootsuite can also be used to track engagement rates and other key social media statistics.

Focus on why you want to be on social media, who your target audience is, what you want to be sharing, where you want to be sharing it, and when you will be sharing it. You need to create a social media action plan that is simple and achievable, and that starts with answering these key questions.

The first step is to create an annual calendar, and map out all of the relevant UK awareness days, weeks and months that you can utilise for future campaigns. Use this as a starting point for generic content – cherry pick the events that you feel would act as a springboard for a successful campaign for your business.

Next, focus on two things you want your social media to help you achieve, such as an increase in sales and improved brand awareness. Think about what steps you would need to take to increase sales – you may find that running a monthly competition or offering deals and discounts could work well. To improve brand awareness you could opt to create some blog posts on your website and share them via your social media channels. You could also get involved in local or industry-specific virtual networking chats on social media to help raise your brand’s profile.

You may also find it helpful to create a list of 50 ‘stock posts’ to use to fill the gaps in your social media content posting when you have nothing fresh or unique to share.

Designing eye-catching content

4. Design eye-catching content

A social media strategy is not going to be successful if the content you are sharing fails to attract attention. That is why it is essential that you learn how to create high-quality content: it is not just about the wording, but also about getting the visuals right that go with the wording.

It is important to offer varied content types with your posts including photos, graphics, infographics, and video content.

For creating simple graphics and infographics, tools like Canva are ideal.

When it comes to creating video content, software like Biteable tends to be a good option.

For editing photos, Picture Story is great. It is an app which is simple to use and offers a wide range of editing tools.

Meet the author

Beth Mahoney