One of the biggest myths that small businesses have about adopting social media is that it is only possible by the big brands to see results and achieve success. The belief is that only the big companies can afford success, as they have unlimited resources and expensive budgets to stay active in all of the social media channels. That is not the case, as any business large or small can easily begin using social media to market themselves and their brand. In fact, small businesses have an advantage over large companies because they have the ability to adapt to newer opportunities and strategies much faster. And other than a small investment of time, most social media platforms and strategies are free to use.
If you’re the owner or employee of a small business that has still not embraced social media, we hate to say it but you’re probably lagging behind your competition. So you really should begin leveraging social media now to help make your business more visible and known. Here are a few tips on how you can get started.
Go where your customers are. Some businesses are overwhelmed by the choices of social media platforms and don’t know where to even begin. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and on and on, so which one(s) should you use and focus on? The best way to know is to ask your customers, because ultimately, they are the ones that you want to connect with through social media. So find out where they already are by asking them. However, we do recommend that you create accounts on as many social media sites as possible, for two reasons: first, to claim your business’ name so that another business with a similar name doesn’t take it. And second, it’s free to create the accounts anyway, and you never know which social media site may become extremely popular this year. Pinterest, for example, seemingly came out of nowhere and became THE social media site of 2012. KnowEm Username Check is a great tool to check dozens of social media platforms and see if your desired name or handle is available and then secure it.
Define your brand. All social networking sites are brands in themselves, and when you want to leverage them for your business, you have to define your own company brand so that people have a reason to visit your profile or follow you. Be genuine to who and what you are. In other words, don’t imitate another company or brand on social media just because it’s working for them. Be unique but stay true to your identity. And just as a reminder, even though you want to let people know that your business has a human side, you should never use your business’ social media accounts to share what should be shared through your personal social media accounts. Social media is in many ways a form of public relations, so always keep your company’s social media content on a professional level.
Stay active. You won’t be able to see many benefits of social media if you log in to your accounts only once a month. Most people typically visit their favorite social media sites every day, sometimes several times a day, so you should try to post often. Posting regularly on your social media sites helps you keep the conversation going, so to speak, and gives your customers a reason to visit often and listen. Remember, though, that people don’t want to be sold to on social media, so don’t use it simply as an advertising and sales tool. Always try to share something that will be of value to your customers. Sometimes that very well may be an announcement of a sale or special, but at other times it could simply be sharing some tip or helpful idea.
Of course, being active on social media takes a lot of time, time that you as a small business owner or employee may not have. The good news is that there are several great tools out there that help make things a lot easier. For example, we at Touch Point Digital love using HootSuite, although some prefer using a similar tool called TweetDeck. These are social media tools that allow you to post to several different social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn all at once. And you can even schedule your posts in advance to go out automatically so that you can stay regular and active in social media without actually having to manually do it throughout the day.
Measure your steps. It’s very important for you to measure your success in social media, but it’s also relatively easy to do. What exactly should you measure? Well, you can measure which kinds of tweets are getting the maximum number of re-tweets, which Facebook posts are getting the highest number of ‘Likes’, and what type of shared content is resulting in the most visits to your company’s website. By using such metrics, you can discover what your customers and social media fans are most interested in, and then better tailor your future social media efforts.
So as a small business, it is important that you be involved with social media, on at least some level. Of course, the more active you are, the more results you will see. And what are those results? Greater brand awareness and an increased customer base. Yes, being involved in social media does take some time and effort. But by using some time-saving tools, you can keep in touch with your customers via social media. Because that, after all, is what social media is about—being social and conversing with your customers. So start the conversation today and keep it going.
For more small business marketing tips and advice, follow us on Twitter @TouchPointD.