Illustration by Meredith Noyes, Chief Creative Officer, Cookson Communications

Social Media Tools for Small Business

Whether you own a coffee shop downtown or an 80’s style arcade, social media is critical for small businesses to engage current fans and create new ones. But, let’s be realistic. All too often, social media support is reliant on a team of one. Luckily, there are many social media tools for small businesses to help you make the best use of your time so that you can build relationships and still have time for all the other things your business needs.

The pandemic changed how we use social media

Research shows that people spent more time on social media in 2020 than ever before, and that’s NOT only young people. The pandemic served as a catalyst for bringing older audiences online and for longer, too. Social media users passed 4 billion in 2020 and the average user spent 2.5 hours per day using social media on their mobile devices. Last year was also a breakthrough year for social media and ecommerce with 42% of people from 18-34 years old shopping on visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

I say all of that to say this: social media is most certainly valuable for businesses of any size.

Managing social media is a challenge for small businesses

The benefit to small businesses (and nonprofits for that matter) in using social media is that you’re already rooted in the community. You know the people. You know the city. It’s all a matter of sharing that. But, as a small business owner, you’re strapped for time and your digital presence falls to the wayside because of ALL the other responsibilities you have.

I’m not going to sell you the proverbial snake oil that you can create a month’s worth of content in 15 minutes. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t. I’m not saying these tools will solve all your marketing problems either. For now, I’d like to introduce you to a few social media tools for small businesses that can help make your life a bit easier by streamlining the time it takes to create quality content throughout your digital presence.

Three social media tools for small businesses that can help streamline your digital strategy:  

 

1. CANVA

Canva, a web-based design tool, launched in 2013 and now boasts more than 30 million monthly active users. The platform includes design templates and a marketplace of stock photography, fonts and illustrations to help users create professional designs easily. Since the platform launched, it’s now moseyed into social media content scheduling and photo editing, too.

And it’s not just social media – Canva has templates for Zoom backgrounds, YouTube slides, PowerPoint, brochures – basically the sky is galore. And their printing is a great resource, too. Canva has free and paid options, but here’s a one-minute video for how to create marketing materials on the free version.

I will echo a word of caution when using Canva from a fellow social media strategist’s blog post: with millions of people using the tool, you will start recognizing the platform’s templates. I’d recommend working with a creative professional to create YOUR OWN illustrations and templates. From there, you and your team have an easy way to create new images.

2. PIXLR

Your photos should complement the story you’re trying to tell. As a small business, you may not have the budget to purchase legacy software solutions, like Photoshop, or to hire a professional photographer to take high-resolution images. You may be left with taking photos from your phone, which can run the risk of losing quality depending on the lighting. Luckily, with a bit of editing, there’s a tool to help you with that.

Pixlr is an online photo editor that allows you to quickly edit photos in your browser for free. The tool is a useful alternative to Adobe Photoshop and user-intuitive to make photo editing easy for beginners.

Now, no photo editor can save every dark photo. Some photos are just hopelessly lost. However, having a free, easy-to-use photo editing platform is a great tool to keep in your tool chest.

3. FACEBOOK MESSENGER AUTOMATION

We spend so much time telling our customers, followers what we WANT them to hear – not enough time listening – to their needs, frustrations and concerns. To quote the Digital Marketing Institute, “Social media IS a customer service channel, whether you like it or not.”

Research shows that 57% of people will reach out to brands on social media to ask a question and 47% of people view brands more favorably that respond to customer service questions or complaints via social media. Of those who reach out to you on social media, 80% expect a response within 24 hours.

That’s a lot to handle. You will not have the bandwidth to be online and available 24/7 — that’s where automation comes in.

Facebook Messenger Automation allows you to answer Frequently Asked Questions and set reasonable expectations of when you’ll be back to respond to a question or complaint personally. Setting up auto-responder messages that are helpful, friendly and set expectations is an opportunity to delight your followers.

Small business and nonprofit teams excel at multitasking and getting stuff done. Posting may not be at the forefront of your mind, and it can even feel like creating content for your channels takes a lot of time from your already thin schedule.

However, as the number of users on each social media platform and the amount of time we all spend across channels continues to grow, using social media will only become more essential to how we do business.

I hope these tools help make managing your social media channels more… manageable. If you have more questions about using social media, Sprout Social, a social media management and analytics software platform, has a handy online guide to social media for small businesses that’s full of tips, resources and data. Take a look!

If you have other questions about best practices or simply getting started, I’d love to hear from you.