By now most businesses big and small know social media is a must, as default as having a phone number. Small businesses, though, can face challenges, such as human and financial resource shortages, when trying to access the benefits of social media. With little money to pay someone to focus on this for them and little time or energy to do it themselves, small business owners sometimes don’t even know where to start.
Using one of my favorite small, local businesses – Scratch Baking in Milford, CT – as an example we’re going to walk through how to approach evaluating and planning your business’ social media presence.
Know Your Audience, Pick Your Platforms
Planning your social media presence starts with choosing your platforms based on the audience, or types of customers, your business appeals to. The demographics for each platform are all slightly different so finding the right fit is important.
Scratch Baking is a small bakeshop that started as a hole-in-the-wall takeout business behind a train station and 10 years later is now a storefront café in a highly trafficked area of a suburban town of 50,000. As its name suggests, it specializes in baked goods from scratch made in house – my favorite is the cranberry orange scone that’s as big as my head.
In general, it has a rather wide customer base, enjoying a good cross-section of town residents and visitors as customers. It has a broad age appeal as well. Families with children and teenagers, young professionals, and senior citizens are all groups of common patrons. While Scratch is not very expensive, a single item can still cost on average $4-7, and catering and special orders can cost more compared to grocery stores and places like Dunkin. As a result, its repeat customers trend toward middle- and upper-income brackets.
Another important consideration is that while we all like to eat carbs, women tend to be more interested in the topic of baking on social media. Scratch will of course be creating content and engaging in conversation surrounding baking as a large part of its social presence. Finding platforms where a lot of women are doing this, therefore, is extremely important to make the business’ efforts successful.
Scratch Baking’s Current Platforms
Scratch started using Facebook when it opened in 2010 and it now has 4,027 followers. It is active on Messenger and is noted as typically replying quickly within a few hours. Despite wide discontent in recent years, Facebook is still the most used social media platform in the world. Almost 50% of all age groups from teenagers to seniors use this social network. It’s really a no-brainer for a business, especially for one that caters to the general public, to have a presence here. If Scratch wasn’t here already I’d say jump on that.Facebook has rather quickly become an informational resource for customers equal to, if not exceeding business websites.
75% of women versus 63% of men use Facebook, making it a good choice for a baking business. The platform enjoys high usage (69%) in suburban locations like Scratch’s and while usage is pretty evenly split between users of different income levels, it is the second most popular (YouTube is #1) platform for social media users making $75,000 or more annually. This bodes well that Scratch’s audience here will have an appetite – no pun intended – for the bakeshop’s higher quality, slightly higher priced products.
Scratch started its Instagram account in 2015 and since then has gained 3,872 followers in the last 5 years. It was able to gain an almost equal following on Instagram as it has on Facebook in half the time. This speaks to the growth in popularity of this photo-sharing platform in recent years. This is where so many in younger age groups – 72% of 13-17-year-olds, 75% of 18-24-year-olds, and 57% of 25-30-year-olds are now on Instagram – flocked as both smartphone camera quality and ads on Facebook increased. However, with the exception of the 65+ demographic, at least 23% of every age group is on Instagram.
Instagram is most popular in urban locations but 35% of suburban social media users are on the platform. It is also the third most popular platform among women (Facebook is first and YouTube is second). 43% of women versus 31% of men are on Instagram. Users are drawn pretty much equally from all income groups with a slight lean toward those making at least $30,000.
Essentially, Instagram is the new Facebook. It’s becoming the default platform for many, even outpacing predecessors like Twitter in popularity. 37% of Americans are on Instagram versus 22% who are on Twitter. Scratch was smart to adopt this platform. Although, there’s a decent overlap in demographics between it and Facebook – a key reason Facebook bought the competitor in 2012 – Scratch can ensure that through being on both platforms it’s catching more segments of its target audience.
74% of Facebook users log in daily. 63% of Instagram users do. So, whether you’re a user who prioritizes photos and prefers the simple functionality of Instagram or someone who likes the multiple content types available on Facebook and its more robust features, Scratch’s content has a good chance of reaching you on any given day.
Yelp is not the most exciting platform, but good reviews here can help significantly with a small business’ success. The great news for Scratch is that the demographics for Yelp users align well with its audience. This probably explains why the bakery has received almost 150 reviews and has a 4.5-star rating.
Restaurants are the most reviewed business category on Yelp and almost 50% of users have incomes of at least $100,000. An equal percentage of users in each age group use Yelp with a slight skew toward 35-54-year-olds. Good job Scratch in knowing the value of this platform.
Google my Business
Once again, not super exciting, but vital. This is what determines the information users are fed about your business in Google searches. Over 90% of searches in the U.S. are done through Google. So, the demographics here are pretty much everyone, or at least everyone who could ever care about finding a bakery in Milford, CT. Scratch has all its information correct here, a number of photos, and a 4.7-star rating gained from 187 reviews. Also when searching “bakery in Milford, CT” Scratch’s listing comes first, ahead of multiple competitors. Scratch is winning the local Google game.
Proposed social platforms
Blogging is a huge part of social media and there are plenty of blogs about baking and baking recipes. However, Scratch is a small business and the likelihood it has the resources to plan, produce, and promote regular blog posts is unrealistic. A microblogging site like Twitter, though, could make for a more sustainable way for it to blog.
Twitter is one of the most well-known and established social media platforms and demographically, it is a decent choice for Scratch. Almost equal numbers of men and women in the U.S. use Twitter (24% of men, 21% of women) and even though urban dwellers are most likely to use it (26%) suburban users come in a close second (22%). The platform trends young, but it is popular among higher-income users with 31% of those making $75,000 or more saying they are on it.
Pinterest is another microblogging site, but while words dominate on Twitter, images dominate here. This platform is great for Scratch, however, not because of efficiency but because it’s foodie heaven. Food is one of the most popular content categories on Pinterest – over 23 billion recipes and dining ideas have been shared there. And its user base is spot on for Scratch.
It is the fourth most popular social media platform in the U.S. 42% of women use Pinterest compared with just 15% of men. These female users are also of varying ages with 34% of 18-29-year-olds, 35% of 30-49-year-olds, 27% of 50-64-year-olds, and even 15% of users 65 and older saying they use the platform. Suburban users are also tied with urban users in terms of usage (30% each).
But the most important thing for Pinterest being a good marketing and sales tool for Scratch is that besides it heavily leaning female it also heavily leans toward users with $75,000 or more in income. 41% of users in this income bracket us Pinterest compared to 27% and below for social media users in lower-income groups.
In terms of sustainability, I don’t believe Scratch would be capable of managing a robust presence here. Food-related content is popular on YouTube, but planning, filming, and editing good quality videos can be extremely time-consuming. However, the popularity of this platform means it deserves at least a mention.
73% of U.S. adults use YouTube. Even though it’s a video sharing platform, it is the second most used search engine. 68% of women, at least 38% of every age group, 83% of the $75,000+ income bracket, and 74% of suburban users are on it. It simply cannot be ignored.
But food vlogs and recipe videos made by bigger brands and seasoned personalities may be hard to compete with here in terms of quality and volume of content without significant resource investments by Scratch. The return may simply not be worth the investment. Video content for other platforms may be more worth focusing on. If Scratch was able to support this platform it should focus on a weekly or bi-weekly series featuring its bakers sharing baking hacks or teaching recipes.
Know your platforms, plan your content
Once you’ve determined what platforms work best for your business, it’s time to start brainstorming the content you want to create for them. Each platform is designed slightly differently. You must consider the expectations and preferences of users on each to plan engaging content while also realistically evaluating what you are capable of producing. Based on this, I’ve created the following content suggestions for Scratch Baking.
You can post so many types of content on Facebook – text posts, photos, videos, links, fundraisers, GIFs – but photos and videos generally garner the most engagement. Right now, Scratch is only creating posts like the one above, a photo of one of its products with text that starts off cute or explanatory but always ends with a promotion to buy.
It’s important to note that due to coronavirus the business is only offering takeout and encouraging customers to order ahead to minimize time in the shop, so I won’t say its post content style is wrong right now. It is also heavily promoting the sale of gift cards to help make up for lost revenue due to the economic effects of public health restrictions the past 3 months.
Hard sells on every single post, though, are normally not the way to go. I know I often check the business’ Facebook and always stop on one of its posts when it enters my newsfeed to see what the special creation of the day is. But in normal times I’d rather have more of a description of what’s in the photo than how I can buy it. I’m already interested in buying it because it looks delicious. A simple link to online ordering with “Available today” at the end of a short, but enjoyable sentence or two can bring sales. Facebook users know what this link is for without a lot of description. Also, links should be shortened using a link shortener to make them visually cleaner.
In terms of expanding content, short 1-minute videos once a week would be nice to add variety if Scratch could produce them. Perhaps a video of one of its bakers in the kitchen making a special product for the next day or a time-lapse of icing cupcakes or filling the shop’s display case for the day – nothing that requires more than a smartphone and a few minutes of time. I know I often find myself watching videos on Facebook of how something is made and food is a popular topic of these.
One last suggestion would be to maintain and promote Messenger as a place for customer support. This is convenient for customers, but also during coronavirus it keeps people from spending too much time in the shop making inquiries or clarifications about orders and products.
Instagram is the place for pretty, creative photos. Right now, Scratch is doing that, but it’s pretty much cross-posting everything on Instagram and Facebook. Some have a problem with this, but I’m more realistic. This makes sense for efficiency plus good-looking photos of food engage users well on both platforms. However, you need at least a small amount of unique content for each platform if possible.
It’s good Scratch is using the Story format on both Instagram and Facebook. Many businesses ignore this completely. Since this content type is more popular on Instagram, Scratch should invest in making it more unique. Right now, both Instagram and Facebook Stories are used basically to share the day’s menu and highlight some other products for sale on the day. There’s opportunity to use Stories to add more fun and professional expertise to Scratch’s brand identity.
It can still cross-post photos to Instagram and Facebook, but on Instagram, it should change the post caption. You can’t click URLs in Instagram posts, so get rid of the ordering links in post captions. Instead, Scratch should say “Link in bio to order” to point users to the website link in its profile and then “head to our story to learn a secret behind this recipe.” Then it should have a video of one of its bakers in the Story talking about a special baking hack or trick or ingredient used for this product. This is a way to do a shortened, lower production cost version of the previously suggested YouTube content.
Scratch doesn’t have to give the whole recipe away, but people enjoy it when brands pull the curtain back a little. Plus, regularly putting the shop’s employees on social media creates a stronger sense of brand community – especially needed when we’re all socially distancing due to coronavirus.
I’d also recommend adding more photos with people instead of just pretty food. All bakeries have pretty food, but this one has a staff that’s often praised by customers – check out their Yelp reviews – and is active in the local community. Having staff pose with the food, like the post above, or getting more user-generated photos of customers enjoying their food would help to show the business is not just sales-driven, but also a fan of its own work. And if you don’t believe Scratch, then you can believe all the images of its happy customers.
Finally, my last suggestion would be for Scratch to take advantage of its branding more on this platform. It is a bakery built on the mission of making all baked goods in-house from scratch. This is something that’s not easy and somewhat rare. It should research and use at least 5-10 hashtags on every one of its posts to get its content in front of more users who are interested in baking-related topics as well as the specific kind of products the posts show. Engaging someone not living in town may seem unnecessary because they are unlikely to buy something every week, but they might order something for a special occasion or recommend the bakery to someone visiting the area.
Also, Scratch’s logo, shown above outside the shop, is really cute and fun. I’ve seen it painted on pumpkins in the shop, but there are opportunities to do more with the logo in terms of artistically creative posts. Can it be done in sidewalk chalk? Can someone cross-stitch it? Can you make Christmas tree ornaments of it? Basically, show a little bit of the geeky fandom surrounding the Scratch Baking brand.
Since Scratch has almost as many followers on Instagram as on Facebook, it should be sure to check messages on this platform as well and let users here know it is available via direct messages for questions and inquiries. I know I sometimes assume businesses don’t regularly monitor messages here since, unlike Facebook, there is no communication of average response time for the account.
Right now, Scratch is in a good place on Yelp. For this platform to be helpful, businesses need to have at least a 4.5-star rating and 50 reviews, both of which Scratch has accomplished. Scratch also responds to unfavorable reviews to apologize and try to resolve problems. I would recommend it responds to good reviews as well to thank people for taking the time and show its appreciation for exemplary reviews by offering a discount on the user’s next order. Others will see this and know the business really cares and that the good reviews of customer service are more likely to be accurate.
The other small critique is that although Scratch has a lot of photos here, these photos are not the best quality. I assume this is because many are old or user-generated. I would suggest curating photos more and adding some of the bakery’s newer high-quality shots that it shares on Facebook and Instagram in order to make sure products displayed are as appetizing as possible and accurate to current menu offerings.
Google My Business
Ditto. Features and content for Google My Business are pretty much the same as Yelp so Scratch should take the same steps mentioned previously to improve the content here.
This platform is known most for news and information sharing, but some brands such as Steak-umm and Wendy’s have done well embracing the funny, sarcastic side of Twitter. Scratch could do similarly by sharing humorous commentary on baking that many could relate to or find entertaining. Perhaps it could use GIFs to do this – it could even get really creative and make its own GIFs in the kitchen or with its products.
The other main way to engage here would be to commit to monitoring trends with an eye toward connecting the bakery’s products to them. For example, a heatwave could be a great topic to relate one of Scratch’s iced teas to in a tweet. The amount of opportunities here is only limited by the business itself and what topics or values it wishes to associate with its brand.
A lot of social media is about emotion and identity because it’s a space for people. Therefore, businesses must act more like people here, which can seem unnatural or unnecessary to most. In order to do well, though, Scratch needs to commit to clearly defining what its brand voice and values are and what forms it is comfortable with those taking on social media.
The easiest way to grow a following here is to start local. Since Scratch is involved in the Milford business community, it should start by following and engaging with other local businesses and citizens it knows on the platform.
Pinterest is a place to be aspirational, dream, and really show what you love and identify with. There are 2 approaches Scratch can employ simultaneously for content on this platform. First, while Instagram and Facebook content usually has a brief life for engagement and works well for promoting products available in-store currently, Pinterest could be a great place to promote special orders and catering. The functionality of discovery and pinning means good content can have a longer lifespan here.
Scratch should invest in high-quality photos of special order and catering items to be included in pins with enticing descriptions and links to place orders. The shop’s owner has had her works featured in some top magazines like Food & Wine. Pinterest can serve a similar as function as magazines as a space for beautiful, visual promotion of a business.
The other approach here is to curate baking-themed boards for other users to discover and become aware of the Scratch brand through. These would include some Scratch items but would be more focused on pins that the business just likes. For example, it could have boards titled “Best gadgets for scratch bakers,” “A bakery’s recipe bucket list,” “Best drink pairings for baked good,” and “Ingredients a baker should never leave home without.”
What could be even more fun and more efficient would be if Scratch involved all its staff in curating these boards. You probably personally enjoy or know a lot about baking if you work in a bakery so this could be a great way to make these boards more authentic and engaging.
Follow the 3 R’s: Relevancy, Realism, Reevaluation
Small businesses like Scratch often don’t have a formal social media strategy. They know they should be on social media and that they should post content. Most of the time, though, how much they succeed in using it to their advantage is due largely to the personal interest of an owner or employee. But if you or your employees are not personally savvy at or interested in social media, you can still start to create and enact a great strategy for your business. You just need a little dedication to learning and to remembering the 3 Rs:
- Relevancy: Make sure the social media platforms you choose are relevant to your business. Do their user demographics match your customer base? Is the culture on these platforms and the content shared on them relevant to your business, your customers, and what you do or make for them?
- Realism: Be realistic with the size of your social media presence in relation to your resources. Do you have the time and skills to dedicate to create the most engaging content type for a platform? How much content creation and social media monitoring can your business support with current budget and employees?
- Reevaluation: Social media, like life, is always evolving. Once you’ve chosen your business’ platforms and started making content you should monitor engagement as well as internal efforts to support social media. Is a platform no longer strategically worth supporting? Have your customers embraced a new platform you’re not on yet? Do you need to focus on creating for a new or more popular content type? Has your situation changed and is it unrealistic to meet the expectations of your previously developed strategy?
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