Social media offers massive opportunities to engage with customers, get more word of mouth, interact with a larger audience, present the ‘human’ side of your business, and get noticed online.
Social networking can be valuable to businesses
In today’s world of online social circles it’s hard to imagine any business not joining the universal scramble for a free soapbox to a wider audience. Yet many small businesses don’t see how they can benefit from social media. Not everyone has had their eyes opened by the massive opportunities for engagement and new business that tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – along with the various blogging platforms present.
3 reasons why small businesses should consider social media
- Word of mouth is the most powerful force of discovery, and social media is nothing more than word of mouth amplified.
- Engage with a larger audience – As a business owner you can be guaranteed a large portion of your customers – and potential customers – are likely to spend a lot of time on social sites. Here is an opportunity for you to engage with a large audience and present the ‘human’ side of your business.
- You don’t have to be big to be noticed – Most areas of social media require the investment of time and not money, making it a level playing field to be noticed.
What is the starting point?
- Get a website. The first very important step is to get an online presence, your ‘store front’. Once you have a website (or even a blog) created then you are ready to get started with social media. The costs of getting a website up and running have come down dramatically recently and small businesses have a number of options available. Whichever solution you choose, make sure you can easily and cheaply make changes to your site as you have more content and news to share.
- Spend time on social sites – Once you have a business website then your next step is to spend time on a number of social sites. Spend some time listening, before you start talking and don’t forget that business owners are consumers too, so look at how other businesses are doing it. Educate yourself on social media, and then decide what you want. Jump in, experiment and learn.
- Link to your website – Think of social media as a party, a big conversation and one that you can be part of. Link your online presence (or website) from all sites you engage in back to one common place – which would be your website – or store front. So for example all those links on your Twitter and Facebook profile should take people to one place.
- Define a strategy – Strategy is a heavy and can be an expensive word. First of all make sure you have your website done, then think about how you want to use it, to which audiences, with which messages. Having a plan will give you short cuts and cut out a lot of effort later.
Key questions to ask yourself
- How much time can you invest?
- Do you have the resources to invest in social media (for example an employee)?
What are your business objectives?
- Are you looking to make more direct sales, solicit feedback or raise awareness?
- Do you have the resources to dedicate to blogging?
Small business owners often make these mistakes when embarking into social media for the first time. You can learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to make them again.
- A dead blog – or one that isn’t maintained – is counter productive. Commit to finding time to put relevant and engaging content together for your blog before starting, and don’t start one if you don’t think you can commit to it.
Starting and not keeping going – if you start to get feedback and you’re not monitoring it or responding, it won’t look good.
- Familiarise yourself with the unwritten rules that often exist on social/community sites. For example, don’t go to Twitter and update it but only to advertise your business and not add any additional value.
- Patience is very important as social media is about building relationships, and this takes time. These relationships build up slowly and so the more effort you invest the more rewards you’ll reap.
The relevance of blogging
- Being human – Having a blog gives you the chance to present the human side of your business and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- Search engine ranking – Content is crucial when it comes to your business being discovered on the web. Your business has a higher chance of being found by search engines through rich, good content.
- More engagement with customers – The use of images and video when creating your content also to helps keep it rich – and is ideal for search engine optimisation.
- Easy to publish content – A blog can be a fantastic platform to easily create excellent content.
Which social media sites and tools are right for my business?
Start with the big ones, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr and Reviews/ testimonials sites.
Measuring the effectiveness of my social media
- Monitor all your feedback.
- Look at the stats on your website and see which social media sites are sending traffic to you.
- If you analyse the results of your activities you can tweak and improve them.
- There’s nothing wrong with asking for feedback and get your customers to engage with the sites you have a presence on.
Golden rules for businesses using social media
- Measure and monitor your feedback, don’t let it drift.
- Be genuine, truthful and transparent. The great thing about social media is that word of mouth spreads quickly.
- Never impersonate, just be yourself and represent your business.