Social Media Campaign Ideas for Small Businesses


Social media campaign ideas are a challenge for all businesses. Conjuring up a concept that is unique, enticing and has a clear Call to Action for your audience is no small feat! With the whirr and buzz of big brands launching large budget campaigns into the social realm, it’s easy for other SMEs to feel disheartened. An SME in particular can become pretty discouraged and write it off altogether. In reality, a small business rarely has the time or resource to implement a campaign of this magnitude; a full-time social media team around the clock is simply out of the question.

Part of the problem, however, is that there is no one-size-fits-all social campaign idea. Really effective social media campaigns depend on your product or service and your customers; what works for one business might not gain any traction for another. If you have a passion for your product and know your customers inside out, then you’re already half way there. Its not over for you yet, SMEs!

For instance, a bar requesting customers to take pictures of their cocktails is going to be much more effective than a tyre manufacturer requesting customers to take a ‘cheeky snap’ of their new tyres. People taking photographs of a product in a sexy location makes their lifestyle shine on social media, but people taking pictures of everyday products they come in to contact with is not exactly exciting social media fodder, is it?

You see the difference. Your product or service should influence the type of campaign you put together. But it doesn’t always have to be about the product–there are some very good campaigns out there that have little to do with the product that the company sells.

On the same hand, your social media campaign idea isn’t going to be effective if it’s not suited to your customers or potential clients. You have to come up with something that your target audience is really going to enjoy, something tailored for them. And something that makes them tick. Making a generic campaign that doesn’t take into consideration your customer’s needs is going to fall flat  (for all the social media world to see).

You need to know exactly which customer segments you want to target. If you don’t already have a good idea of this (and you should!) I recommend this excellent resource from YouGov which was introduced to me recently.  This nifty tool provides an in-depth assessment of a whole wealth of customer demographics.

Using a simple brand or interest keyword search, you can delve in to your target customer epitomised! You can even find out what they’re probably having for tea this evening. This certainly appeals to our nosy nature and offers wonderful data to play with when setting up social media advertising. This tool offers unparalleled brand insight and should be a first-stop before tackling your social media campaign.

So what are some cost-effective methods for small and medium businesses to create viral social media campaigns? Here are a few gems I think you can try for your business:

Involve Your Customers In Your Process

Social media content sharing platform, Hootsuite, has some great ideas on this one here, but the basic idea is simple: let your customers and followers have a say in how something in your business is done. This can be very simple, and many businesses do it. For instance, some snack companies let their followers vote on what the next flavour of their flagship snack should be. The ‘Do us a Flavour’ campaign from Walkers caused quite a stir – who knew the UK population were so opinionated about a flavour of crisps?!

While not every business can have their customers help them define their next product (what colour should our next batch of industrial bin bags be guys?! Hmm, might not work), you may still be able to find something that your customers can vote on.

It might be your new logo if you have several options available to you. It might be a new design for your user manuals, but whatever it is, your customers are going to be more engaged with your business if they feel like they have a part to play in it. You give your customers the chance to invest themselves in your business a bit, which can turn them into more effective brand ambassadors.

Create a Contest and Update the Results Regularly

The best part about contests is that they don’t have to cost you much more than the prize. If you have a great prize that people really want to win, you’re going to get a fair number of entries. This can be especially cost-effective if you are offering your own product or service as the prize (which you should be anyway). Not only does offering something like this save you some money, but it also promotes your brand with every entry.

For this to work well, you want to come up with a hashtag to promote the contest with. The hashtag, which entrants will add to their tweets and posts, will also make it easier for you to search for the contest, collect the data and see exactly how many people have entered. Make sure you come up with a hashtag that is simple and not too long–you don’t want people to mistype the hashtag and not be included. The Hashtag Generator should be the first port of call when developing a social media campaign.

Contests and competitions, like anything else on social media, must be monitored to be effective. You can’t just start a contest and then check back once it’s finished; you need to follow it consistently and provide updates to your audience about how the contest is going. If you can create a graphic to show how the contest is progressing, or even create an entrant leaderboard (if it’s possible for entrants to have multiple entries and action to rack up points), even better.

The best contests are active social events. If you were holding a contest in person, you wouldn’t leave the room and just wait for it to be over would you? Stick around and be as social as possible with all the entrants. It will result in more active, genuine followers and fans which will stick around after the competition is over.

Go Outside and Interact with Your Customers In Real Life

A shocking proposition I know, but honestly, the best social media contests are going to involve you leaving the office and interacting with your followers in person. For instance, you might go find the top contenders in your contest and talk to them about it. Or, if your contest is smaller, you might just go talk to the winner as you hand them their prize (instead of giving it to them digitally or through snail mail).

At Pixel8, we launched a simple ‘RT for Sweets’ Twitter campaign and encouraged individuals in the local business community to get involved. Post-campaign we took to the streets and visited the worthy winners to present their prize. Photos were taken, bonds were made and a bit of new business was even won! Social media is amazing for connecting with your audience, but nothing beats that face-to-face interaction to win people over. Your followers who didn’t win will love this too. Going that extra mile shows that you’re a caring bunch and will fuel the passion in your brand ambassadors.

Donate to Local Charities & Involve Your Customers

Starting a contest that involves a local charity is a great way to get involved with your customers while investing in your community at the same time. Most SME’s don’t have a huge amount of capital to invest in something like this, so get your customers involved. Promising to donate a percentage of what your customers contribute is one way to go about this. Another is to donate a certain amount for each like or share.

For this to work right, you probably want to come up with a branded photo to go along with the post, along with a hashtag. Try not to make the contest all about you and your business and how you guys are so incredibly helpful. Instead, try to make it about the charity you’re supporting. People will see what you are doing, and your business will therefore be naturally promoted. You don’t have to sing from the rooftops about how giving you are – let your motley crew of brand ambassadors do that.

And Finally, Find Social Media Campaign Ideas that Allow You To Be Involved

Social media campaign ideas are not about promoting your business – they’re about connecting with your customers and followers. When you have strong, dedicated followers who are out there telling everyone about what a great brand you are, that’s when you get that R on your I (Hurrah!). You can’t put numbers on having a strong base of brand ambassadors, and an effective social media campaign could be just the thing to create that base.

If you come up with any great social media campaign ideas, share your gems with Social Media Experts and share in the comments below, in the meantime, I hope my insight on social media campaigns for SMEs has been useful and will spur you to dive in to a social campaign. I’m looking forward to seeing some exciting campaigns launching in the very near future.

About the Author

  • Sian Ediss

    Sian Ediss has experience as Head of Social at digital agencies where she is responsible for keeping a wide variety of clients happy with interesting and engaging social media campaigns that not only make them stand out from competitors, but also bring a return on investment. Sian is a creative thinker with a penchant for blogging and illustration and incorporates this into social media strategy wherever possible. Sian and her three man team won ‘Best Social Media 2014’ at the City of Manchester Awards this year and she also speaks at events such as ‘She Says MCR’ as well as running tutorials with the Juice Academy, a great agency which nurtures future social media talent. In her spare time, Sian is an illustrator and you can find her illustrations here


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