Being a small business with a social presence is as much a blessing as it is a curse. On the one hand, the stakes are a bit lower and you can be more flexible with your experimentation. On the other hand, you’ll need to focus a significant amount of time on nurturing your presence at this stage.
As it matures, things get different, but not necessarily easier. Your follower base increases, and now you can’t risk losing too much engagement with them now that you want to focus on loyalty. But that is far ahead in the future. For now, you’ve got a modest level of activity and you want to amplify that in the most sustainable manner possible.
More to the point, this is why a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t really work when it comes to social media. There are certain challenges uniquely faced by smaller organizations that cannot be overcome by thinking like bigger companies that can afford to hire teams of people to analyze their online presences. The silver lining here is that you can get by using the same techniques that the “big fish” use while keeping in mind that you need to adjust your own perspective with regards to the challenges an organization of your size faces.
Metrics Are Harder to Measure
Because you don’t have as many followers as Coca Cola does, the signals are more subtle and you don’t immediately see the results of your experimentation. Let’s say you are at the very beginning and you just got your first follower. Two days later, that follower disappeared and you have no idea why. You’ll likely never find out why unless you ask that particular person why they stopped following you. There’s too little data to analyze. One person leaving is not a trend.
Once you’ve grown your presence to the point that you’re starting to gain traction, you can start to see the greater ensemble for what it is. The problem is that the social platform you’re on will likely provide you with a very pitiful amount of data that’s relevant for trend spotting. It’s also not as malleable as some of the third party dashboards out there.
They might also not show you the proper metrics you really need to know about. A good dashboard will allow you to scale up and down your metrics to measure subtler trends over different periods of time. This level of flexibility will help you spot the minute details you really need to be aware of.
There Can Be Anemic Engagement, Despite High Follower Counts
Social media has a way of making human beings seem more like statistics than people. Our perception gets tied up in the numbers and we forget that those numbers are a mixture of a small number of annoying bots and a large amount of people who have a ton of signals coming their way from their friends, their family, and other companies around the world that distribute their content to them. They’re all competing with you for their very limited attention on such platforms. If you have the social acumen of a block of wood, you’ll rarely get a single interaction even with 50,000 followers.
Just like when you’re learning a new language, you will have to get used to perceiving signals and trends, then translating them into something actionable for your particular audience. Having a high follower count is half the battle and when it’s combined with low engagement, that’s usually a sign that you’ve had a large advertising budget but very little preparation for building a loyal base. At least half the job’s done, though. All you have to do now is see what gets their attention and builds your audience’s trust. This will certainly have to involve direct interaction with some of your followers, making them feel respected and catered to by your brand.
Experimentation Might Break A Few Things, But It’s Worth It
Risk is the currency of running an organization. Social media is not an exception to this. At this particular stage, it’s the perfect time to experiment since the stakes are lower. But don’t be surprised when your engagement dips at certain points. The idea here is that it’s not a time for panic, but rather one for exploration. You’re likely navigating through uncharted territory, so you should expect a few bumps in the road. The trick is to lower your expectations and experiment as much as you can without creating a catastrophe. You’ll eventually get a sense of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating genuine engagement.
Despite all of the challenges faced by small organizations, you have one major thing going for you: Since you have less to lose, it gives you ample room to fool around with the bells and whistles at your disposal. As you do this, you also get the hang of what makes people tick and how you can get more organic growth as opposed to spending thousands of dollars on advertising. But no matter how much you read up on this, you’re not going to get a handle on it until you get your feet wet!