Social media delivers much to growing businesses, allowing them to tell stories, spread awareness, and maximize profits. Thanks to a range of new tools, business owners can ensure that social content reaches the right audience at the right time — but only if done correctly. “Social media can be free, and you can sell directly through the platform. It’s the easiest and most direct way to reach the people that you care about,” says Jeff Januszek, a social media expert and founder of a media management company that bears his name. To leverage these platforms with efficiency and effectiveness, consider this expert advice from social media strategists and entrepreneurs who know how to use Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok and leverage their services for social good.
Facebook and Instagram serve as two of the top social sites used by U.S. adults (with YouTube ranking in first place). These two social powerhouses drive results for large and small businesses worldwide with in-app features that make it easy to search, buy, or sell products without the hassle — especially on Instagram. In fact, 60% of Instagram users say they discover new products through the app, making it a proven free tool for entrepreneurs to showcase their business models and reach a wide audience.
Instagram helped grow Rafa Wright’s business from a slogan to a line of hats, t-shirts, and hoodies. The self-described serial social entrepreneur decided to enlist the slogan “Make The Hood Great Again” as the backbone of his community efforts as a social entrepreneur, and created apparel that gained most of its exposure on social media by people who supported his mission. The Detroit native has founded several community businesses in hopes of improving the educational and economic well-being of America’s inner-cities. Wright, 31, is the author of the MTHGA book, based on his latest journey to open “Neighborhood Grocery,” the first community-owned grocery store in Detroit targeting underserved neighborhoods that lack access to fresh foods. He also is the founder of Urban Plug L3C, an social investment company dedicated to building wealth within Detroit’s inner cities by creating group investing platforms.
Wright says platforms like Instagram have helped lift his community businesses and spread awareness on his brand. “I wouldn’t have a platform. Without social media, I don’t have a voice. It’s the foundation of so much that’s been done,” Wright says. By using features like Instagram Shops and Stories, Wright has also been able to increase sales of his MTHGA apparel, which has caught the attention of thousands in the Detroit-area and celebrities like rapper Yo Gotti.
Instagram, and Facebook Shop is a new mobile storefront for businesses. According to Instagram Business, Shops is built from an existing Instagram or Facebook profile where people can visit a shop directly through their feed and Stories. Once at the shop, people can easily browse products, explore collections and purchase without leaving the app for certain brands, or be directed to the brand’s website. An easily customizable tool, Shops allows brands to curate their customers’ shopping experiences that align with the theme of their brand’s image.
Amira Matthews, a social media manager at Socially Focused Marketing and an Instagram expert, says using Instagram Shops is an excellent way to sell online, especially as a small business owner. “Users have a short attention span. Users can click through, and buy it right away and you want that to happen,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about a landing page or a lead capture, and if your goal is to sell just make sure your images look good because Instagram is all about the visuals.”
Instagram Stories & Stickers
Wright advises against spending money on Instagram advertising and, instead, encourages others to develop a good Instagram following with loyal customers who will share and promote your business for free. Through the use of Instagram Stories, Wright leverages both his community efforts and the exposure of his apparel. However, he doesn’t personally post stories of his own on the MTHGA account; he collaborates with followers, and unofficially endorses those that promote his apparel on their own stories, where some bring thousands of followers. Once an endorser tags the MTHGA account on their story, viewers can click the tag and explore, follow, or shop on the page. “People outside of the state, like radio personalities, popular business owners, or social media influencers have worn some of my hats,” Wright says. “Once those things are visually seen on an Instagram Story, it get’s banging.”
Wright uses his personal Instagram account, which features 8,000 followers, as a way to promote his business account that just reached more than 1,000 followers. But if you lack a big Instagram following, Matthews suggests you may want to run ads on Instagram Stories as a way to get people to your Instagram profile or shop. “If you are a brand new business, no one knows who you are. Think of Instagram Story as another window into your business to make sales,” she says. “Set aside $200 to run ads to see how it reacts in a month.”
Instagram’s new Support Small Business Sticker also serves as a way to leverage Stories toward the goal of building your business. This feature was created to help people discover and support small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic (similar to the Stay Home sticker). According to Later.com, people can tag their favorite small businesses directly in the sticker, allowing their followers to click and browse on the account. When people use the sticker, their story will be added to a shared Instagram story, so their followers can see it along with other businesses. This feature allows businesses to reach new customers and stay connected to the people they serve.
In New Orleans, Jeff Januszek, the social media expert and founder of an eponymous social media management company, connects local businesses in the Big Easy to help them grow through curated social media strategies and running paid ads on Facebook. He builds Facebook and Instagram pages, manages audience engagement, and uses Facebook advertising tools for promotional videos that have helped his clients reach success in sales.
In 2015, Januszek and his team created a promotional video for a restaurant’s new burger. Once the video was made, the team spent $200 on Facebook Ads and were able to reach thousands of people in the New Orleans area who shared an interest in food. Using “how did you hear about us” surveys at the restaurant, Januszek and his team tracked how successful the ad was at attracting potential customers to the restaurant. “For the month of promoting that video, the restaurant made about a $4,000 profit,” Januszek says.
“Users have a short attention span,” says Matthews.
Facebook Ads allows you to target ads to people who are interested in what you have to offer. Facebook provides three audience selection tools that allow you to choose relevant groups for effective advertising. These tools include: Core Audiences, which targets by age, interests, and geography; Custom Audiences, which targets people who have engaged with your business in some way; and Lookalike Audiences, which targets those whose interests are similar to your customers. Although successful targeting is important, spending more money on ads can increase the reach, engagement, and impressions of the post. For starting business owners who don’t have a massive media budget, spending $1 per 100 website visitors can gather revenue.
To learn more about Facebook ad targeting, read more here about audience selection tools, engagement, or get help from a Facebook marketing partner.
Dennis Yu, author of the article How Much Do Facebook Ads Cost? A Useful Budgeting Guide for Small Businesses, states that people fail at Facebook Ads because they boost ads to audiences that are not familiar with the product, resulting in useless likes. “These people you hit didn’t even have a chance to learn about you, so they’re not just going to buy instantly,” Yu says. In the article, Yu states that business owners leverage Facebook’s process of conversion remarketing, where by using the custom audiences selection tool, it allows you to retarget audiences that previously visited your site.
Matthew suggests that in order to make the most out of Facebook advertising as a business owner, you need to create a working strategy. Facebook Pixel can help you get started with that. According to HootSuite, the Facebook Pixel is a code that collects data from audiences engaging with your content on your website and provides information that lets you “measure, optimize, and build audiences for ads.” You can install Pixel on your business website, allowing Facebook to track your site visitors, which you can re-target on Facebook through ads. To get started installing the Facebook Pixel, read this step-by-step guide.
Design and Photo Editing Apps
Design and photo editing apps are a common way to make stories and posts more visually appealing, which can boost the appearance of a feed. Popular photo editing apps such as VSCO and overlay apps such as Afterlight help make posts more creative, interactive, and engaging. Those tools assist Adrean Lopez, a social entrepreneur from The Bronx, who leverages design apps to enhance the identity of his brand. He created Palmaclara in June 2020, a t-shirt brand created for the sole purpose of giving back to COVID-19 efforts. Without a computer to work on, Lopez relies on his iPhone and editing apps to create Carribean-inspired t-shirt designs and uses his personal Instagram account to promote and connect with potential consumers.
Lopez says Instagram provides his brand with the best exposure, and through the use of the story template collage apps such as Unfold, he creates visually pleasing promotional posts that attract his followers.
“There’s people that will stay and read a certain post based on the way it looks,” he says. “I found that people really liked the organized, clean, neat look on a story or post, and that helps to attract attention.” By using Instagram direct messenger and thanks to a dedicated fan base familiar with his graphic-design abilities, Lopez has sold about 20 shirts in the first week. All the funds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee.