Small business owners have a lot to think about on a daily basis; personnel, customer service, finances, inventory, scheduling and more. Social media isn’t always the first thing on your to do list, and it can be daunting, but it’s integral to your marketing success…and setting yourself up for success will make all the difference.
Here are 3 ways to help get you started
1.) Create a Strategy –
It’s fairly easy to go out and set up a Facebook page or create a Twitter account. It’s harder to sit down and decide on your strategy for managing these accounts. However, it is an important first step. Deciding on what you want to accomplish, how this relates to your brand and business goals and who within your organization is going to do it, are important questions to ask yourself.
Set your objectives. Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Is it more traffic to your site or more traffic in your doors? Is it building an email database for outbound marketing? Is it creating an online community to support your brand? This will drive how and what you’re communicating through your social media efforts.
2.) Choose your Networks –
As the world’s largest social media site, Facebook is somewhat ubiquitous so you can certainly find a network of consumers for most industries there, while Google+ is good in a B2B or software/technical market. On the visual side, Pinterest is good for the home-making, fashion, food, fitness and home goods markets and YouTube, the 2nd most used search engine, is a good video medium for brands. LinkedIn with its 200 million+ members, is a powerful online professional network. These are generalizations, so there are always exceptions.
Explore each of the big five social networks and see if your competition, or related product/service providers are doing well there. If so, you might also be able to make a place for yourself. It’s also a good idea to ask your customers where they are spending their time online, so you can focus your efforts in the right direction. They’re your target, so don’t be afraid to inquire.
Don’t forget the niche-specific online networks. If you’re in travel, you could be very active on Tripadvisor Forums. If you’re a home improvement specialist in a large city or town, AngiesList is an important website for you. Paying attention to niche social networks might be a way for your business to be somewhere your competition is not.
3.) Generate Content and Engage –
I heard it best as “teach with story and sell with subtleness”. Use what you know about your business and industry to sell yourself and what you do. Think from the customer’s point of view to know how to frame it. You’re the expert – what would customers want to know about your product or how to use it? What success stories could you tell? If you’re a plant nursery, you could create content on subjects ranging from soil to seasonal plants…the possibilities are endless.
Set a 90-day plan. It’s tempting to try to do it all, but in order to remain consistent with your content you must start small with manageable expectations. You can always add more later. If you’ve decided to use Pinterest and YouTube, a reasonable 90-day plan could include building your social media community on these channels (remember to use your traditional or offline marketing avenues to help build your online efforts) and engaging that audience with consistent, compelling content.
There are so many ways to participate in social media, so figure out what works for you and go for it! Be patient though. Initially, your ROI will be in online word-of-mouth. This eventually should translate into more tangible metrics. And finally, reevaluate periodically to determine what’s working and what you could be doing better…it’s critical to your overall success with your social media efforts.