#LivePlanChat Recap: Social Media for Small Businesses with Buffer’s Nicole Miller

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shutterstock_193510067We had a great #LivePlanChat this week with Buffer’s Community Champion, Nicole Miller, discussing Social Media tips for Small Businesses! The conversation covered a range of tips and advice regarding what social media platforms brands should use, how to handle negative feedback, and what social media tools help small businesses the most. A huge thanks to Nicole for joining us! Check out the recap below:

LivePlan: For business owners who don’t have a lot of time to manage social media, how should they approach social media?

nmillerbooks: Great question! Social media is a great way to build relationships and provide helpful information to your customers. It’s never been easier to reach new people and deliver vital information to your customers. People are already talking about your brand on social. Be there to engage and interact and thank them! There are lots of great tools to help you do social media smarter (not harder) like Buffer! Testing these is a great place to start. Customers are turning to social to ask questions — it’s become a new means of contact like a telephone or email

LivePlan: Is it necessary to have a brand presence on every social media platform?

nmillerbooks: For most businesses, no. Isn’t that a relief!? It’s best to go where your audience is. Chances are, that’s Facebook and Twitter. Be consistent on whichever platform you choose, so make sure it’s a network you enjoy posting to. There are tons of demographic research on which audience congregates around which platform – a quick Google search can help you find your target customers. Strive for quality relationships and serving customers well so they will help spread the word for you! With Buffer you can post to Google+, Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook so this can help you be in more places at once. One good thing to note here is that it’s important to customize posts for each platform.

LivePlan: Do you have any examples of small businesses that are doing a great job on social media?

nmillerbooks: @sephora, @hiltonsuggests, @zappos, @warbyparker, @jetblue are all companies doing a great job helping customers on social. For small businesses – there are lots who are cultivating active audiences and sticking to their brand voice and values. Listening and interacting on social is key — strive for engagement.

LivePlan: Is there something unique about the way they’re helping customers that makes them stand out for you?

nmillerbooks: Anytime I see a brand responding on social to a customer, I see a win! Whether it’s a “thank you” or a “how can we help you” Brands who listen on social and respond to customers is key! The Buffer team attended the Lion King on Broadway and one of our team members tweeted about it. The official Lion King Twitter handle replied and he was so thrilled! Those interactions create brand loyalty, which is more powerful than coupons these days.

Highliner_Group: We have the social media strategy which utilizes accounts such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – but do not have a dedicated social media director. Is there an application you recommend for a small business owner to assist in coordinating all social media activities,etc.?

nmillerbooks: Great question Highliner! Buffer does allow for scheduling posts and provides analytics to help determine which posts are most successful – We have a free business trial you can test out! https://bufferapp.com/business

Highliner_Group: Thank you. I would appreciate taking a look at that.

nmillerbooks: There are many other great tools out there too! Hootsuite and Sprout Social are great — we definitely encourage you find the tool that works best for you!

Guest986: I never heard of Buffer. How is it similiar or different than Hootsuite?

nmillerbooks: We are a bit more streamlined and focused on scheduling (whereas Hootsuite has your social streams in your dashboard). For Buffer, we strive for simplicity and ease of use. And our customer service is top-notch. (Huge shoutout to our Happiness Heroes!)

Twistvox: so we created a conceptual brand canvas meant to facilitate consistency across Social platforms, does that make any sense to you?

nmillerbooks: Hi there Twistvox! Sounds really awesome! Is there a link I could check out?

LivePlan: Yeah, I would love to see that too!

Twistvox: sure! here is a prezi example of a Brand canvas https://prezi.com/iazyj8o9t7m0/

LivePlan: Thanks for sharing, Twistvox!

nmillerbooks: Whoa that looks great! Thanks for sharing it!

LivePlan: Nicole, one downside of social media is just how many brands are already there. What should a small business post on social media to rise above the noise?

nmillerbooks: Keeping the message and voice consistent across social is great! Be helpful above all else (Check out @jaybaer‘s book, Youtility, on this!) Customers never forget that! Provide quality content (whether sharing other’s work or writing your own blogs) consistently. Check out this great post on how to balance self-promotion: http://blog.bufferapp.com/self-promotion-in-social-media It’s okay to be human and personalize business posts (within keeping your brand voice consistent)

Twistvox: how should we thank people when they follow us? (gotta take advantage of the expert)

nmillerbooks: Replying to them with a “Wow, thank you!” is great! Or a DM with a personalized message (avoid auto-DMs) At Buffer we send out lots of hand-written notes and brand stickers. Taking interactions offline goes a long way in our digital world

LivePlan: It’s true, when I (Jonathan) participated in Nicole’s great #BufferChat on twitter with my personal twitter handle, it wasn’t too long before I received a handwritten note with some awesome Buffer stickers!

nmillerbooks: Aw thanks for the mention, Jonathan!

Twistvox: any tips on approaching our segment via twitter?

nmillerbooks: Such a great question, Twistvox! I’m a big fan of Twitter chats! Join in the conversation and genuinely look to build connections with other folks. This seems like a great community too so definitely keep connecting here! On Twitter, people take note of consistent and helpful posts — so build up your Buffer queue with articles and tweets relevant to your industry and you’ll build your following

LivePlan: What should a small business do if they get negative feedback on social media?

nmillerbooks: Don’t panic! It’s okay. Keep an open mind and try to engage that person in positive dialogue. It’s okay to email or call that person to take the conversation offline, but show online that you’re listening. Social is forever, and people are watching to see how you react – be genuine, positive and grateful in all things.

Highliner_Group: For us, it seems that many of the potential buyers of our services (i.e. U.S. Government) are active on there, but use it more for informational purposes. For some reason, we seem to connect better with folks via Facebook then any other social media medium. Could it be the limitation of characters in Twitter?

nmillerbooks: Great question Highliner! That seems like a great observation on your part! Sometimes certain audiences thrive on one platform vs the other. Seems like focusing on Facebook might be key for you guys! The character limit does make Twitter a bit more surface level. We’ve found that with Buffer too and have great dialogues on Facebook beyond 140 characters. A great note about social media — the “rules” are definitely more like “guidelines.” Every business and audience is so different

Highliner_Group: Thank you Nicole.

LivePlan: Definitely feel free to put more energy into a platform that’s working!

nmillerbooks: it’s great to experiment and go with what works!

LivePlan: Nicole, how does the Buffer tool help small businesses manage their social media presence?

nmillerbooks: Take time each week to look at analytics (via Buffer or Facebook Insights) and see which posts got most attention! Do more of those! Buffer helps you space out and schedule your posts. By spreading out posts, more people will see your message. Each time you add a post for Twitter, G+, FB, LinkedIn, it goes into a queue that is auto posted at specific times Buffer’s free plan allows one account per network (FB, Tw,Li, G+ pages) and up to 10 queued post. The Awesome plan is $10 a month for up to 12 networks and 200 queued posts! http://www.bufferapp.com/awesome

Buffer also offers analytics, content suggestions and feeds -simplicity is key! Our Business plans rock: https://bufferapp.com/business

Check out all the fun apps and extras Buffer integrates with so you can work smarter: https://bufferapp.com/extras

Here’s a great comparison of free vs awesome plan: http://cl.ly/image/3w420Y2o0M1U

My personal following grew tons after I joined the awesome plan. It’s worth every penny!

We’re cooking up some great new features that will be so helpful in planning social media campaigns! Stay tuned!

LivePlan: Do you have any success stories of small businesses using Buffer to improve their business?

nmillerbooks: While not a small business, here’s a great case study on how @aboutdotcom uses @Buffer: http://blog.bufferapp.com/buffer-case-study-about-com We have customers in all types of industries – construction,real estate, etc, who use @Buffer. Countless customers have shared how their followings have increased after posting regularly with Buffer. One fellow emailed me about how his Facebook fans grew by 50% after he started posting regularly with Buffer — so awesome to hear these stories!

LivePlan: Over at Bplans.com (our business planning website), we were able to majorly increase our Facebook reach by using Buffer to help find the best times to post. Here’s a blog post I wrote about my experience with posting times this summer: http://bit.ly/1ACN4zy

Twistvox: what would be a recommended posting frequency on Facebook,LinkedIn and Twitter?

nmillerbooks: Such a great question!! Here’s a really helpful blog post: http://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-frequency-guide Definitely follow the blog.bufferapp.com for tons of great social media tips!

Highliner_Group: Nicole – What I am most curious about is how Buffer and other social media portals or whatnot are able to share social media posts?For example what social media account takes precedence? Twitter and their 140 characters or do they trunicate Facebook messages to meet Twitter’s requirements?

nmillerbooks: Great question Highliner! You’ll dictate which platform each post gets sent to — and each platform has a custom schedule that the post will go to. In Buffer, if you post one post to Twitter and FB, you’ll have to stick to 140 limit. So in that case, you might want to queue up Twitter and FB separately

Twistvox: is there a repeat feature on buffer? ex: repeat one particular tweet that got good results?

nmillerbooks: We currently don’t have a repeat, but we do have a “re-Buffer” option in the analytics — so if a post was really popular, you can easily re-Buffer it! Some of our new features will help with repeating posts,too! We also really listen to our users and work on new feature regularly – our user forum is here: http://buffer.uservoice.com/forums/257855-feedback-and-ideas

A few more notes — Tweet @Buffer anytime you want to say hi or have a question!! And reach out to me anytime as well! Thank you so much Jonathan for having me here!

LivePlan: Nicole, thanks so much for joining us! Tons of great advice, and happy to learn more about Buffer too

nmillerbooks: So fun to be here! Hope everyone has a happy and productive week! (And Tweet me if you want me to send some stickers!) More than happy to!

Highliner_Group: Thank you for your time and insight.

LivePlan: If you’d like to join our next chat in November, sign up here for updates: http://bit.ly/1o7Ffhs We’ll email you with our next chat topic announcement, and then send you one reminder the day of the chat

Highliner_Group: Thank you. Have a great week!

Twistvox: humongous cool stuff for all of you.

LivePlan: Thanks everyone for a great chat! See you next time!

nmillerbooks: Cheers!

Jonathan Michael
Jonathan Michael
Jonathan is an Engagement Marketing Manager for Palo Alto Software, and has spent the last 9 years developing and implementing digital marketing strategies. During that time, he has learned that empathy and authenticity are strengths by which companies can effectively engage with individuals at every point throughout the customer journey.
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