You’d be hard‐pressed to find an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to increase website traffic, boost their profits and drive new business. Easier said than done though, right?
Actually, it may be easier than you think. You’re probably already dabbling with one of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing every day: word of mouth.
Think about it — how many times a week do you ask someone for a recommendation or tell them about something great? Seventy‐eight percent of people share their positive brand experiences with people they know at least once per week.
Why is that important? Because 90% of people are more likely to trust a brand recommended to them — even from strangers.
Digital word of mouth is the new word of mouth — only faster, amplified and targeted.
Small businesses can’t rely solely on traditional word of mouth for brand awareness and organic traffic.
Unless you’re an established enterprise like Amazon or Apple, you likely don’t have a customer base far‐reaching enough to give you confidence in organic word of mouth (WOM). That’s where digital word of mouth comes in.
Email marketing is great. But the most effective category of digital word of mouth (DWOM) is social media. If you use them correctly, social media platforms can become the flagship of your online marketing efforts.
You don’t have to be digitally savvy to do it right. We’re going to show you how. And if you get the hang of it, this strategy will prime you for considerable growth, both regionally and nationally.
Why us, you ask? Before we became a payment processor and payroll and point of sale provider, we were Main Street entrepreneurs and small business owners. We’ve walked in your shoes and felt your pain points. From driving store traffic and teaching ourselves SEO to finding affordable and powerful technology solutions, we’ve done it all. And we want to share that experience. We want to see small businesses succeed.
Step 1: Humanize your brand
Consider the brands you follow and interact with on social media. What catches your attention and draws you in? Sure, you might love the products they sell, but chances are you’re drawn to something else too. You react to the faces they show, the feelings they evoke, the way they commit to their purpose and mission. You ultimately respond to the engaging content they provide.
Your social media presence should tie your business to a greater purpose than what you sell or the service you offer. Think of your mission and values as the primary problem you solve or the thing you want to be known for. What you sell is second when it comes to your social media accounts.
Social media is all about human‐to‐human connection, not product‐to‐human. You can have the most gorgeous photos, the most creative reels, but if you’re constantly focused on hard‐selling your products, you aren’t going to engage your audience in a way that converts likes to web traffic. It might even come across as spammy.
Instead, focus on gaining your followers’ trust by framing posts as a two‐way conversation and emphasizing your values and personality throughout. Forming relationships with your target audience will push them to act: to click through to your website (or walk in your doors!), browse, add to cart, check out and – most importantly – spread the word and repeat the cycle later.
Step 2: Create content that adds value
Once you’re ready to let your business’ personality shine in your online presence, think about the kind of content that will position you as a partner and thought leader.
The best marketers create relevant content that will add value to followers’ lives and prompt them to take action.
Post regularly. You’ll be more likely to see new followers, higher engagement and a higher clickthrough to your website.
Sharing a photo of your new shipment of scarves or cookbooks may generate some interest, but a video of five ways to style a scarf or a sample recipe from the cookbook are the types of posts that will directly motivate purchases.
Plus, they establish you as an influencer in the space and a signal to followers that they can count on you for tips and other life‐enhancing content.
A YouTube channel or podcast could be a great addition to your lead generation content strategy. What’s more humanizing than showing off the actual faces and voices of your brand? We aren't talking full webinars — attention spans are short and there's a reason the recommended video time across platforms is two minutes.
Step 3: Influence the algorithm
We’ve covered how social media is about connecting people and adding value to their lives, but it’s not just good vibes. It’s also a science. Digital word of mouth will fly if you can influence the algorithm.
The algorithm is how social media platforms decide which content to show users, based on their interests and interactions.
It’s your job to teach that algorithm why it should favor and suggest your posts to potential customers.
Don’t let the word algorithm intimidate you. Influencing it is easier than it sounds. Here’s an actionable process you can follow to do it well.
The Algorithm Playbook
Post daily. It’s all about staying fresh, and freshness = relevancy + frequency. Work social networks into your daily routine, and create editorial calendars ahead of time so you’re never scrambling for new content (a good rule of thumb is having posts scheduled at least a week in advance). As you build your following, stick to an 80% content publishing (free) to 20% content promotion (paid) rule, bringing us to...
Run Instagram and Facebook ads. Set a daily spend limit and target users close in proximity. Always include a call to action to inspire click‐throughs to your ecommerce store, even if it's just an invitation to join your email list.
Create content people want to share and return to. The Instagram algorithm, especially, wants to see followers saving your posts and sharing them, either on their own stories or in direct messages to others. It goes back to great content marketing — think tips and tricks, roundups, recipes, free tools, how to’s, statistics, quotes, giveaways and guides. Don’t be afraid to prompt followers to do so (“Save this post for your next closet clean‐out!”).
Motivate followers to engage. Ask a question in every caption — the more comments you receive (and the quicker you receive them), the more the algorithm will favor your posts, driving traffic to your webpages.
...and engage on others’. Think of social media as a party. You’re unlikely to meet anyone if you’re standing in a corner by yourself. Comment on relevant posts and leave your two cents from your organization's point of view. How do you find said relevant posts?
Identify key topics and hashtags that are related to your intended audience. Aim for 10 to start, including at least five evergreen and five trending hashtags to track (example: #womensfashion is evergreen, while #summerwhites is trending). Don’t know where to start? Consider the topics you want to rank for.
Set aside 30 minutes each day to sift through the most recent posts.
Retweet, like and comment on posts that are relevant to your mission and demographic.
Add new topics and hashtags to your list as you see fit.
The more time you spend engaging with others, the more activity you will see on your own feed. As you acquire followers, their likes, comments, saves and shares will train the algorithm to highlight your posts in their feeds. Soon you’ll see those digital fans turn into real‐life shoppers, evangelists and loyal customers always hungry for more.
You’ve gotten them to your business. Now deliver the great experience you promised.
Heartland can help. With solutions ranging from payments and point of sale to customer engagement and employee management, our number one goal is to see our entrepreneurs thrive.
Speaking of, if you haven’t taken our free Unstuck Playbook training, you’re going to want to hop on that. It walks you through easy but effective strategies that are taking small businesses from surviving to thriving. Check it out today!