Social media is used by many small business owners to promote their products and reach new customers. Unfortunately, many of those small business owners aren’t seeing results from their social media marketing efforts.
There are many things you can post to social media to grow your following and increase engagement.
However, I wanted to focus on the type of content you shouldn’t be posting.
I follow hundreds of small businesses on different social media platforms, and the following is the type of content that almost always has low engagement.
1) Mixed messages
When we click “follow” on a social media account, it’s because we’re interested in the content we think the account will produce.
If I start following an account for fashion tips and ideas, I don’t want to see posts of the account owner trying out the latest TikTok dance trend.
You want it to be clear to your followers, and anyone who checks out your account and considers following you, what your account is all about.
>> What type of products do you sell?
>> Who are they for?
>> How do they benefit customers?
>> What type of life do your products help your customers lead? (e.g. a more environmentally friendly life? A more fashionable life? A more Zen life? Being the best cat owner? etc.)
Combined, these should create your message (they also help you define your USP; unique selling position. Read more about that here).
And remember, your answers should be specific. If you’re helping people live a more Zen life, you should be clear on the type of people you’re helping, the specific products you’re selling, and how those products help them.
Let’s say I make paper birthday party hats for kids. The hats follow popular birthday party themes (e.g. princess theme, shark theme, dinosaur theme, etc.).
The benefit my products provide customers is: helping parents create the perfect themed birthday party for their child. I’m helping parents fill their children’s lives with wonderful birthday memories.
An Instagram feed sharing mixed messages might post:
- products I make that aren’t for kids’ birthday parties
- content unrelated to birthday parties
- posts highlighting how long my hats last or how cost-effective they are (the customer I want to attract is one who cares about creating the perfect party, not one who’s searching for the lowest price)
- posts sharing how to make a paper hat (my target market wants to buy a paper hat, not make one)
An Instagram feed sharing one clear message might post:
- kids’ birthday party hats I sell
- photos of kids’ themed birthday parties
- popular theme ideas for kids’ birthday parties
- birthday gift ideas or goodie bag ideas that follow the themes
If I start posting the Christmas ornaments I also sell, or pictures of bachelor/bachelorette party ideas, or craft ideas, I confuse my target market.
All of my content should be related to: kids’ birthday parties.
Although I could start making fun hats for bachelor and bachelorette parties, it would confuse my message.
Someone who started following my business account to get ideas for their child’s birthday party is going to be confused when pictures of bachelorette parties (something that’s likely in my target market’s past) start showing up in their feed.
If I was selling a product such as jewelry, I would want a clear definition of my target market’s style; not how I would describe it (e.g. eclectic), but how society would describe it (e.g. bohemian).
If I’m targeting a customer who has a bohemian style, my entire social media feed should have a bohemian vibe. My jewelry should be photographed on models wearing bohemian hairstyles, bohemian-style clothes, and bohemian-style hats/sunglasses/bags. Every piece of jewelry shared should be bohemian style.
That’s how you send one clear message to your followers and keep them engaged.
Define your message (what you sell, who it’s for, how it benefits customers) and then make sure everything you post to social media aligns with that message.
It’s easy to start mixing tutorials and DIYs into your posts because it’s content that’s easy to create. You’re already making the products, so why not film or photograph the steps and post it on social media?
But most of the time, the people buying your products are different than those interested in how you make them.
In some cases, a look behind the scenes at how your products are made can be interesting to the customers buying the products. However, those customers are more likely interested in just a few components of the process and the benefits of them, rather than a DIY or step-by-step process.
For example, if I’m selling children’s backpacks, I may film a short video showing how I double-stitch and serge each seam. Then I might tug the seams apart with both hands to show how strong they are and add a caption “double-stitched seams can hold up to X pounds of weight, no problem!”
My target market (who are parents) cares about that feature because it means the backpack will last longer and will hold up to the wear and tear heavy books put on the seams.
Showing the sewing technique I use to install a zipper on my backpack would likely only be interesting to another sewer and not my target market.
Tutorials typically aren’t a fit for the market you’re trying to sell your products to. They want to buy your products, not learn how to make them.
3) Mixed aesthetics
Every picture you post to social media should have the same aesthetics. This helps create a cohesive feed and strengthens your brand.
When different styles of photos and images are added to a social media account, the feed starts to look messy, un-branded, and unprofessional.
For example, if some photos are black and white, others are bright and colorful, some use a vintage filter, etc. there isn’t cohesion from one photo to the next.
Another example…if I’m selling jewelry but I don’t plan collections, I may upload pieces of jewelry that don’t work together (or even clash) next to each other in my feed. Or, sometimes I might photograph my earrings on a model, other times I might take a selfie while wearing them, and other times I might photograph my earrings on the kitchen table.
This leads to mixed aesthetics in my social media account.
Your aesthetics may be based on:
Focus on a select few colors or shades, or even make one color dominant in each photo.
Yes, this does require planning when it comes to product creation, but it will have a big impact on your social media feed, as well as your website, Etsy shop, craft show display, etc.
For example, in spring, you may focus on pastel colors for your products and fill your social media feed with pastels. Or, if you sell products with a neutral color (e.g. soy candles free of dyes), the background or props you use in your photos may follow a color scheme.
Choose one photo filter when editing photos and use it for every photo you post. For example, I may use a vintage filter for each image I upload to my Instagram account.
You can get a little more artistic with the photos you post to social media, as people can visit your online shop for a more accurate representation of your products.
Although you want variety in your feed, there should be some consistency when it comes to how you photograph objects for your social media feed.
For example, I may stick to photographing my products on models for all my social media images. Or, I may only take flatlay photos (which is a top-down perspective of a subject). Or, my photos may have a minimalistic approach with just one product in a photo on a plain background.
There are many ways to create a set aesthetic for your social media post.
You’ll find great examples and ideas here: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/instagram-themes
If you’re not sure how to create a specific look, browse social media accounts to find one you love the look of and that aligns with your brand (it shouldn’t be an account of a competitor; look at all kinds of businesses).
Then study how they’ve created their aesthetic.
>> What type of lighting do they use for their photos?
>> What type of filter do they use?
>> Which colors do they focus on?
>> What type of photos do they take (flatlay, lifestyle, models, etc.)?
Decide on the look and vibe you want your social media account to have and make sure all of your photos follow that look and vibe.
4) Personal posts
Unless your personal life is closely connected to your brand and is of interest to your target market, you should leave personal posts for your personal social media account.
For example, don’t wish your significant other a happy birthday on your business’s Facebook page. The only time this might be appropriate is for an account that makes and sells birthday decorations, or birthday cakes, or birthday cards. Then one might share how they’re decorating the house for their significant other’s birthday, or share the cake they’ve baked and decorated for them, or the card they’ve designed for them.
If someone is following my social media account because they love the handbags I create, they’re probably not interested in my birthday wishes for friends and family, pictures of my cats, or where I’m going on my vacation.
You can let followers see the more personal side of your business without sharing your personal life.
Add your personality into post captions by:
>> adding a touch of your humor to your post’s text.
>> working in your favorite movie/tv show/book references (as they relate to your products/business).
>> share how you use your products (e.g. an artist might share photos of their work hanging in their home, a soap vendor may share their nighttime beauty routine and how they use their products, etc.).
Keep posts professional, on-brand, and always related to the type of content a follower signed up to see.
5) Low ROI posts
I see too many social media accounts that aren’t getting any engagement, yet they continue to post the same type of content over and over.
If you’re spending time posting to social media, you want to be sure you’re getting something out of it (a return on investment: ROI).
Using social media is a form of marketing; not selling.
Often, social media posts don’t result in an immediate sale. But you should be getting some engagement on your posts, and at least reaching people.
When the content you’re posting to social media isn’t getting any views, clicks, likes, or comments, it’s important to switch up your strategy.
Otherwise, you’re sinking precious time into social media content that has proven to you, that it’s not worth your time/money.
Your audience, and the social media platform, will let you know when you post something they like.
When a handful of people see your post and like/share/comment/click, it tells the platform’s algorithm that the post may be worth showing to more people.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
>> Try different content
>> Try different formats (photos, videos, longer posts, shorter posts, etc.)
>> Try different platforms
>> Try different posting times
>> Try different posting frequency
How to create engaging content
To create a social media account people are interested in following, you must know your customers.
Think about who’s following you and why.
Why might someone follow a bohemian jewelry business on Instagram?
It’s not to buy a new piece of jewelry every day.
Someone might follow the business on Instagram because they love bohemian-style fashion.
They do still want to keep an eye on new pieces that come out and perhaps be notified when a sale is on.
But when followers aren’t buying, they likely want to be inspired.
>> They want to see different types of bohemian outfits and hairstyles to wear with the bohemian style earrings they already own.
>> They want ideas for how to layer the necklaces they already own to create that bohemian style.
>> They want to see how to stack rings for a trendy bohemian look. Or perhaps they want to see the nail polish color that would pair well with a bohemian statement ring.
The reason someone follows your social media account will be different. It entirely depends on your target market and the products you’re selling. If you don’t have a clear idea of who your target market is, start there. Follow this link for help.
>> A business selling handmade cleaning products may have followers interested in creating a toxin-free home. That business’s posts should align with that interest.
>> A business selling mid-century modern home decor items may have followers interested in learning how to decorate their homes in a mid-century modern style.
>> A business selling handmade pots for plants may have followers who want ideas on what to plant in their pots and how to care for the plants.
Think about the question from earlier: what type of life do your products help your customers live?
When you know the specific answer to that question, you’ll have an easier time creating content your followers pay attention to and engage with.
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!