Social media for small business

‘Everyone’ says you should be using social media.
That’s the worst advice ever for embarking on a social media program.

Before you start you need to:

  • Understand the pros and cons of each platform.
  • Become familiar with each.
  • Find out where your target audience hangs out.
  • Decide which ones best suit your needs.
  • Have a clear understanding of what you want social media to achieve.
  • Set up your social media plan.

Warning! Social media can be addictive, so part of your plan needs to determine how often and when you check and post.

So let’s start with some of the benefits for small business.
Social media can:

  • Establish your credibility and expert status. Blogging is a particularly effective way to demonstrate your knowledge of your industry and product or service.
  • Build brand awareness. Just by popping up in your target audience’s space, you remind them of your presence.
  • Build relationships. People can be reluctant to buy from someone they don’t particularly know. By responding to your followers’ comments (especially negative ones), sharing their posts and tweets, and engaging in a conversation, you’ll make it easier for them to buy from you.
  • Give your business a personality. It’s easier to interact with a person than with a faceless business.
  • Drive traffic, customer behaviour and sales. Social media is a great way to get people to visit your website, to remind them of your call to action, and to let them know about new products or services or special deals.
  • Create a two-way conversation with your consumers. Interacting and engaging with your targeted audience helps you build a community around your brand.
  • Offer incentives. ‘Like us on Facebook and get a free coffee.’
  • Share news, photos of new products, comments about recent successes.
  • It’s cost effective. It doesn’t cost to join, but you will spend time, especially when you’re starting.
  • Network by staying in touch in virtual spaces. Word-of-mouth can work even better in social media than it does in real life.

And the negatives?
It’s a process that needs to be managed (time).
It takes consistency to overcome perceptions of community, and to build trustworthiness and reliability.
It needs commitment because results don’t happen quickly.

Most common platforms:

Have a bit of a dabble in the ones that interest you. It’s only going to cost some time, and you can opt out easily. But don’t spread yourself too thinly. Maintaining a consistent presence on two or three platforms will be more effective in the long run than trying to be everywhere.

Tip: When you write a blog, use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word.

Your plan
what you want to achieve (goals)
which platforms
who has access to passwords
monitoring your platforms: how frequently, and when
who is responsible for posting, interacting, monitoring
use of monitoring (Google alerts) and scheduling programs (TweetDeck, HootSuite)
how you measure outcomes (how well you’ve reached your goals)

Tip: Sites like TweetDeck or HootSuite will allow you to post on multiple platforms, but think carefully before you post exactly the same words on each platform. Some people consider the use of hashtags on a LinkedIn or Google+ post unprofessional. Shortening of web links is valuable on Twitter, but the shortened form may not display the original link on FaceBook.
Best to keep content platform specific.

It takes time!
Be customer focused.

You’re building a relationship: that means interaction.

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