Social media can have a huge impact on small businesses. If you have the time, it’s an effective way to promote your enterprise and reach a huge audience without spending too much money. By no means is social media a marketing cure-all, but it can help you foster repeat customers and inspire referral business.
1. Start With Strategy
The best way for a small business to start a social media campaign for is to have a goal in mind: When you have a target, it’s a lot easier to aim. Do you want to highlight an upcoming sale? Broadcast and promote an event schedule?
Keep in mind that certain social media sites will work better for your business than others. If you run a boutique clothing store or destination hotel, it’s to your advantage to visually showcase your products or location, so a social media network like Instagram or Pinterest could work best for you. If you run a startup software business, the visual aspect might not be as useful; instead, consider engaging potential customers over Reddit or Twitter.
Possibly the most well known social network (after all, there was a movie made about its creator), Facebook has over “350 million” users and is still growing steadily. Even if you choose not to focus your social media efforts on Facebook, it’s important to have a business page or a fan page at the very least. Users can post to your wall, like your page, and mention you in posts to other Facebook users.
Even though they’re limited to communicating in 140 character posts, Twitter users have a lot to say. Choose an ID that communicates your business: you want to make it as easy as possible to identify your company. Since users can search by hashtags (#), it’s useful to pair your tweets with hashtags like #smallbiz, #startup, or #thenameofyourbusiness. Appropriate hashtags make it easy for users to find your company. It’s also important to sound like a real person when you’re using Twitter. Use straightforward language, and don’t indulge in overzealous self-promotion.
Google+ allows its users to expand their personal account by creating a brand page to attract customers. Like Facebook, you can share content generally or target your content to specific groups using the “Circles” tool. Unlike Facebook, Google+ uses a “Hangout” feature, which allows you to chat face-to-face with up to 10 other G+ users. It’s a great way to answer questions and build customer engagement.
This social scrapbooking site allows its users to create virtual ‘pinboards’, collections of images around a central topic. It’s easy to use and allows businesses to showcase themselves, and their sensibilities, visually. By curating several boards that are relevant to your customers’ interests, not only will you show your know-how. You’ll also connect with users who may have overlooked or underestimated your brand.
Created specifically for business, LinkedIn provides job seekers, employers, business owners, and professionals with a forum in which to engage and interact. It’s a great way to connect with other small businesses, collaborate, and source new talent.
A YouTube channel may not be appropriate for all businesses, but it is a great way to enhance customers’ connection with your brand. Whether you’re sharing commercials you created in-house, how-to videos, or just responding to FAQs in video format, YouTube offers a unique way to personalize your online presence.
Reddit is famous for its brutal honesty, extensive threads, and in-depth information sharing. No business should start using this network planning to exclusively promote their business instead of interact with their audience. Perhaps more than any other social network, Reddit demands that you act like yourself and have something interesting to say. If you can speak with authority, and in a unique voice, about topics relevant to your business, then Reddit allows you to reach a huge, highly engaged audience.
If you can’t afford the time or money it takes to maintain accounts on a variety of social media networks, then it may be in your best interests to focus on one or two sites. Select the networks that you think you’ll be able to leverage most effectively, and get to it. Consider tools like TweetDeck, which allows you to post to several sites from the same account.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and social media success isn’t earned overnight. It takes time to build an audience and see the results of the time and effort you put in online. The best way to increase your engagement is to respond when customers, or potential customers, ask questions. Answer the smallest queries and reply to comments — even if they’re complaining. Showing that you’re listening and working on the problem goes a long way to soothing customers’ concerns.
What you share on social media is as important as sharing in the first place. Quality content will boost your standing, while content that is solely self-promotional can actually be detrimental. Tailor your posts to fit the network you’re using. You don’t have to create all your own content: it’s perfectly acceptable to share articles or images that your customers might like, even if you didn’t create it.
Social media is a tricky world to navigate: It’s easy to get caught up promoting yourself instead of connecting with your audience. Concentrate on sites that you know your customers use and share content that you think your customers will find useful. Above all, be genuine. In a world of impersonal big business, social media is the perfect way to showcase the personal connections your small business builds with its customers.
Rachel Schramm writes articles for Allied Cash Advance about online commerce, responsible borrowing, investment, and budgeting. Allied Cash Advance is a responsible payday loans and cash advance lender.
References Bercovitz, Ilana. “Social Media Tips for Small Business.” Small Business Trends. 19 September 2012: n. page. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/09/social-media-tips-small-business.html>.  Summers, Vanessa. “Why These Top 5 Social Media Sites To Grow Your Business?.” Entrepreneur.com. n.d. n. page. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://financialguru.entrepreneur.com/2010/04/08/why-these-top-5-social-media-sites-to-grow-your-business/>.