10 top tips for small business success on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the definitive social network for small business. More than four million professionals in the UK and more than half a million groups have been created. Someone joins LinkedIn every second.

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Here are 10 tips for making the most of LinkedIn for your business

1. Find new customers

LinkedIn is a great way to find new customers. Improve your chances of finding them by asking your customers to write you a recommendation, which will be broadcast to all of their connections and yours.

2. Stay connected to those who like you the most

LinkedIn is all about business intent. Way more so than any other network, where perhaps sharing is the biggest motivator. LinkedIn can be your place to get deals done.

3. Sync your other social networks with LinkedIn

You can easily sync your Twitter with LinkedIn so that you don’t have to go to two places and make the update. Think before you do though. If you use your Twitter purely for talking about your personal likes and loves consider whether your business network wants to share in that on LinkedIn.

4. Seek out suppliers

You can find people and businesses you might otherwise have had trouble tracking down through LinkedIn. Search for a company or see which companies your connections are recommending – you could strike gold here.

5. Find out which of your contacts are on LinkedIn and invite them

By simply downloading your email contacts you can upload them all to LinkedIn via a CSV or excel file. It’s a really quick and easy way to connect with your contacts. Don’t forget to add your LinkedIn handle to your email as well – that way you’re promoting your social profile day-in-day-out.

6. Make use of groups or start one

You can glean a lot of industry knowledge from joining LinkedIn groups. Just search the directory to find subjects of interest in your industry. You could start one yourself and become the thought leader of a given subject. There are a surprising number of businesses who’ve got a lot done this way.

7. Get answers you can trust

Use the direct mail function to email someone directly with a question or a post your question to a group. You can guarantee that someone else will have a question too and help you with the answers you’re looking for. You may even win new business this way. If you help someone with a good answer to a tough question, who knows, they may select you for the services you offer.

8. Be wise

LinkedIn’s premise is that you connect with people you’ve done business with, so don’t go spamming people you’ve never met with requests to connect – this can backfire on you and may even see you given a warning. You can connect with people you don’t know though by asking to connect with them via a group you’re both a part of. They can only say no.

9. Blog

If you write a great blog you’ll want to share this on LinkedIn – there are lots of professionals ready and willing to engage with your content if it’s good.

10. Keep an eye on the competition

Use LinkedIn to see what the competition is up – who they were connecting with, what groups they were creating and contributing to. It’s a brilliant way to see what’s happening in your industry. If you’re not into sharing or the fear of the competition finding out what you’re up to is scary just suck it up – you’ll only get left behind. You could even look to hire new people via LinkedIn. Their profile is there for all to see.

How do you use LinkedIn for your business?

Source: http://howdoyoudo-marketing.co.uk/2010/11/10-top-tips-for-small-business-success-on-linkedin/

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The value of social media to small businesses

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

  1. Word of mouth is the most powerful force of discovery, and social media is nothing more than word of mouth amplified.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Common mistakes

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.

 

Source: http://marketing.yell.com/web-design/the-value-of-social-media-to-small-businesses/

Choosing the Best Social Media

It seems as if a new social platform pops up every week, and as a small business owner, it can feel overwhelming. So how can you establish yourself on social media when users are bouncing from one network to the other, and the next hot network may have no reliable messaging for your business?

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First, take a deep breath. Second, there are a lot of social platforms and many audiences, but not every one may be right for you. Before diving head-first into the social sphere, you should know what each is used for and whether it’s useful for you. This is especially true if you’re spending your valuable time managing these accounts yourself.

Here is a breakdown of the seven major social media sites and how they can be beneficial to small businesses.

1. Twitter

Twitter is a great platform for projecting what your company is doing and accessing a large audience. Branding a business requires a lot of time and money, but creating a consistent voice with your tweets is an easy way to get started.

If you already have a blog, which almost every small businesses should, syncing it with Twitter lets you seamlessly publish any major company news to both simultaneously. There are dozens of in-house apps on every blogging platform that make this easy to do.

But Twitter is not just a megaphone for your company, it’s also a great way to engage with thousands of customers. Use social tools, such asTweetDeck or HootSuite, to effectively receive feedback from your followers in an organized manner.

2. Facebook

Facebook and Twitter are useful for similar reasons. Both allow you to connect with your audience, start a conversation and update with company news. Why should a business juggle both accounts?

Facebook’s advantage is that the conversation is gathered all in one place. Customers want the opportunity to feel a part of the company they care about, and Facebook allows them to do just that.

Keep in mind that Facebook is much more visual than Twitter, so it’s best to include more than short bursts of text. Post colorful photos, insightful videos or something interesting that’s relevant to your company, valuable for customers and beautiful on your Facebook Timeline.

3. Pinterest

Because the platform is still fairly new, most brands still aren’t sure what to make of Pinterest. But as traffic and engagement are spiking, early adopters have a great opportunity to make their mark on the site before a lot of major brands hop on.

We’ve already seen some pretty creative initiatives from major brands, but even if you don’t have room in your budget for a contest, there are still great ways to benefit.

Pinterest is a social discovery network, but it’s not a platform for self-promotion. Rather than broadcasting what the company is doing, small business owners can crowdsource and create highly visual pinboards for inspiration. Collecting images, logos and websites with good design and clever copywriting will inspire your brand and team, but also show followers that you have an eye for good taste.

4. Foursquare

Location-based social media services might not be best for every brand. First of all, it requires a person to physically check in somewhere that represents your brand, for example a store or an event. If your company is virtual, there’s really no need (unless you’re having an event).

Foursquare is great for restaurants, retail stores and venues, because it allows customers to post reviews and leave tips. Because these tips are from regular customers, newcomers will feel that they’re receiving authentic information that you simply can’t provide as the owner.

Because Foursquare is partnered with Scoutmob and American Express, brands can use these apps to reward customers with discounts for checking in to an establishment. It’s a small bit of courtesy that helps bring happy customers back.

5. YouTube

Don’t let the cat videos fool you, YouTube is a valuable resource for small businesses. Today, technology has made it easy for anyone to create a video without spending a ton on production. Even a smartphone is capable of creating something worthwhile for your audience.

A mountain of content is uploaded every day to YouTube, which can seem intimidating when you’re trying to be heard. The bright side is that you also have access to that content. If you want to know how to do something, there are millions of tutorials on YouTube to help you learn.

But as a leader of your business, you also have something to give the millions of viewers and uploaders. And with the right strategy and engaging content, you can reach a large audience easily.

That being said, don’t expect your videos to go viral every time (or even at all). Instead, focus on creating content that’s thorough and insightful. Some ways to utilize YouTube for marketing include tutorials, interviews with relevant professionals or video blogging about a new product or event.

6. LinkedIn

We all know that LinkedIn is a great resource for finding a job, but there are a lot of great ways that brands can utilize the network for marketing and networking.

The advantage of Linkedin is that you can filter companies through size, industry and geography. By fully completing your company page, it will show up in the search results of potential customers.

While Facebook and Twitter are great resources for feedback from customers, LinkedIn is where you can partake in conversations with like-minded professionals. In addition to networking offline, small business owners should consider joining groups and participating in Q&A forums that are useful to your industry.

7. Google+

Many small businesses join Google+ for SEO purposes and syndication with other Google applications, like AdSense or Gmail.

It’s also a great platform to expand content distribution—many business owners claim it’s easy to gather an audience.

The audience for Google+ is highly engaged, meaning that like Facebook and Twitter, it’s a great tool for conversation. What Google+ has that the others don’t is the Hangout feature. Here businesses can talk about products or ideas face-to-face with consumers, through videochat.

Taken from: http://www.openforum.com/articles/choosing-the-best-social-media/

5 Ways strategic Social Media can help small businesses

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One of the biggest misconceptions about social media strategy is that only the big brands and enterprise organizations can afford success. The impression is bigger businesses have unlimited resources, people and budgets to execute on all new ideas. This is simply not true. Like in anything, people are focused on their jobs as they exist and anything new that comes along, well, it’s met with prejudice.

The truth is that small businesses possess an enormous advantage over big businesses—the ability to recognize and adapt to new opportunities much faster, with far less investment, and with a greater capacity to learn and improve at will. So when it comes down to how a small business should consider how to employ a social media strategy, why would we look to big business for inspiration?

a) Because they have millions of friends, fans, and followers?
b) They are getting a ton of Likes, Tweets, and Youtube views?
c) They are always the source of the best content – videos, posts, infographics, designs
d) None of the above

The answer is “d” – none of the above.

Why?

Because most businesses, large and small, have not answered that very question, why? Why would we go on social networks? Why would customers connect with us there? Why would we gain any value out of online engagement? Why would any of this impact my business?

At the root of the problem, today’s social media programs start with the technology in mind and not the solution in mind. Many businesses jump into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, et al, without thinking through opportunities or customer expectations and experiences.

To help get you started and to leap frog even the most advanced businesses in social media, I’ve outlined 5-step approach. Working through it will assist in the development of a relevant social media strategy that allows you to earn customer attention, relationships, and loyalty in places that only expand your reach and impact.

5 Ways to Develop a Strategic Social Media Presence

1. Listen, Search, Walk a “Daily in the Life” of…

Take some time to search Google, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+ for related keywords and geographies to your business.

Take notes of what you find…capture the trends, insights, activity, and the players that matter to you

Document the 5W’s + the H.E.: Who, What, When, Why, How, and to What Extent – it’s the only way to work toward ROI

Prioritize networks

Recognize patterns and behavior

Observe trends and themes

Tip: Also pay attention to what people aren’t saying or sharing

2. Define Your Online Brand: What do you want people to see and appreciate?

Take a step back to think about the value you can add based on who you are and the expertise or the unique service or solution that only you can provide

Define why you are different than your competition

Design the professional brand and the persona you would like to convey online

Describe “your” experience: What is it that you want people to see or think when they find you in social networks

Portray your brand, persona and the experience in your profiles

Tip: Don’t sell or overly promote…

3. Develop a Social Media Strategy: Make your presence matter

Write a vision statement for how you will use social media to build relationships, a community around your value proposition, and how social media will enable your strategy

Describe what social media success will look like

Customize your presence, goals, and what success looks like in each network

Create an editorial program that reinforces your value, your business, and your goals within each network

Understand what format to you love using AND what seems to be the formats your customers prefer

Curate relevant and interesting content that reflects your professional and personal interests

Tip: Find the balance between personal and professional activity online, it can’t be ALL business

4. Build and Invest in Your Community: Participate and earn affinity to become a trusted resource

Share insights in the communities that matter to your business and reach beyond the friends, fans, and followers you already have

Identify and talk to local online influencers who can help you spread your expertise and value

Ask and answer questions in your communities and across other vibrant communities hosted by others

Maintain a valuable and timely presence

Create a “linked” network of resources: Link to or recommend people who can also help your customers

Tip: Invest proportionally in social media, search engine optimization/digital and your real world activities

5. Learn: Repeat steps 1-5 over time to stay relevant as technology and behavior evolves

Learn from everything to improve experiences and your overall strategy

Ask your community what they’re looking for and how you can better help

Monitor activity using social media listening tools around you and in your areas of focus to stay on top of trends, themes, and needs

Tip: Looking at activity through the lens of your customers and walking in their shoes will always keep you on target in your strategy.

Taken from: http://www.briansolis.com/2012/09/5-ways-strategic-social-media-can-help-small-businesses/

9 Helpful Tips for Business Blogging

It’s one thing to create a blog – it’s another to create a blog that readers want to visit again and again. If you’re serious about using blog hosting to meet your business goals, there are nine tips to follow when developing a business blogging strategy.

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#1: Find a valuable niche

The ideal blog dares to be different. Find a neglected (or new) area of your industry that will appeal to your target audience. Ask yourself, “Will they want to read about this every day?” If the answer is “yes,” you have a great reason to create a blog.

#2: Enjoy yourself

Business blogging should never feel like a chore. When you create a blog because you’re interested in its topic, your readers will appreciate – and even reciprocate – your enthusiasm.

#3: Look at the big picture

While it’s only natural to focus on the products and services you offer, you can also benefit from broadening your scope. For example, if you create a blog for your pet toy store, your target audience may be interested in posts about pet health and nutrition, or even pet rescue programs. Stick with your overall business blogging theme, but explore diverse (yet related) topics.

#4: See what’s out there

Online sources like Technorati® and Google® Blog Search can help you determine how many blogs are currently covering the topics you are considering. You might also want to look at the additional topics these blogs are discussing, which can inspire new ideas of your own.

#5: Network with other bloggers

Connect with other bloggers in your industry by using Technorati®, Google® Blogs, and other social sites to find like-minded bloggers. Once you find relevant blogs, you should bookmark them, comment often, talk with the author, and social tag their blog entries. By building these relationships, you can gain new links to your blog and – ultimately – new readers.

#6: Add media

Blogs don’t have to consist of text alone. Video, images and surveys can all add interest to your blog. Mix the creative media into the text instead of placing it at the top or the bottom.

#7: Encourage interaction

Blogs have a unique ability to encourage conversations and create interaction. A blog with no comments isn’t really a blog – it’s an editorial column or a standard website. Be sure to invite readers to leave comments each time you post.

#8: Keep up the good work

Develop – and stick to – a schedule when you create a blog. Your readers should know when to expect a new post, whether you’re posting every day of the week or on the same day every week.

#9: Don’t give up

It can take months to build a loyal base of readers when you create a blog. Plan to make business blogging a regular part of your communication strategy for at least a year.

When you create a blog for your business, your overall goal should be to attract repeat visitors.

Taken from: http://www.networksolutions.com/education/9-helpful-tips-for-business-blogging/

10 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING TIPS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS

As business owners venture in to the scary world of managing their own Social Media campaigns, many are driving blind. A little bit of education goes a long way and we suggest following these 10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business Owners to get started. There are endless ways to drive traffic to a website, increase brand awareness around the web, and engage with potential clients through Social Media Marketing. The ability to reach people in real time and target a relevant audience has never been easier.

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10. Serve the community

Don’t always be looking to serve yourself and your business, provide your following with something that helps them that may not necessarily help you. Becoming a resource is the greatest step you can take to becoming trusted within your community. Spend time researching the other areas that your target market are interested in and provide helpful links and information.

9. Pass traffic to your website

From everywhere possible! Your main social Media Marketing goal should be passing traffic to your website. Remember that your own website is still your greatest sales tool. It has all your information and has the ability to keep people interested. Link from all YouTube videos, Flickr photos, business profiles, and anywhere else you can possibly imagine.

8. Use tools

There are a ton of third party tools for Social Networking websites, use them. They will help you stay organized and save time. Some of my favorites are:

  • ReFollow for Twitter
  • Flickr Uploadr
  • StumbleUpon Toolbar

7. Find niche networks within your industry

There are Social Networks popping up everywhere. Many are specifically targeted to a particular niche. Find Social Networks within your niche and use them. The traffic may not be as high as Facebook and Twitter, but you can easily become a leader within smaller Networks.

6. Write, write, write

Set up a blog. Write until you can’t write anymore. Hire a writer. Do something, anything to keep your content fresh and your readers interested. Don’t just write for your blog, submit articles to sites like Squidoo, Associated Content, InfoBarrel, and HubPages.

5. Promote everywhere

Once you have finished writing, promote it everywhere. Pass traffic through all of your Social Networking accounts, submit your articles to Digg, Reddit, Mixx, etc. Promote everything you do on every single avenue possible. You never know which site could make your article a hit. Whether you get a ton of Retweets, hit the front page of Digg, or get lot’s of Stumbles… if you’re writing something of value, it will catch on somewhere.

4. Learn from your community

Use the people in your community as you wish them to use you. Learn from them. Whether you’re at the top end of your community or just started your business you can learn something from anyone. Research like minded people and businesses to always stay on top of your game.

3. Provide something of value

What do you offer that other don’t? If you don’t know the answer to that question you better find something fast. You can provide Twitter only specials, discounts to Facebook Fans, the next xx people to retweet get something free.

2. Interact with your audience

Spend time talking to people in your community. Reply to Tweets, comment on Facebook posts, engage your audience from your own posts. Host polls, reply to the comments on your blog. If you disagree, be polite. Do not come off as arrogant or as a know-it-all. Be respectful and always answer in a timely fashion when contacted. Word of mouth is still a great way to drum up business, being prompt and a resource can get your respect and respect gets you referrals.

1. Be everywhere

I recently heard someone say “Oh no, I don’t have Facebook, I just used LinkedIn”. While LinkedIn appears to working very well for this person, why cut yourself off from any potential source of clientele? Find and use every single option available, some work better than others within certain industries, but all can provide the option to interact with potential customers and give the option to refer people to your website.

Taken from: http://www.stikkymedia.com/blog/10-social-media-marketing-tips-business-owners

5 ways that social media can be used for marketing a retail business

Social media is becoming an increasingly important element of many firms’ marketing efforts but independent retailers are slower to pick up the trend. However social media can benefit all types of business, including high street shops, restaurants and pubs.

Recent research has underlined the fact that many consumers now use the internet generally, and social media specifically, as their first port of call when looking for products or services. It is also the case that as many as 70 per cent of consumers now use social media to air their grievances about firms with which they have had a bad experience.

As a retail business owner you must ensure that you are properly harnessing the power of social media if you are to benefit and control the way your business is perceived online.
All too often when social media is used, business owners think it is enough to simply sign up to a few social networks and then forget about them. This is not an effective strategy. In reality, you will only get the most out of social media if you make a proper time investment.

So how can you best use social media as a marketing tool for your retail business? We have compiled a list of examples showing how other retailers have used social media marketing (often shortened to SMM) to great effect.

Micro-blogging

Twitter and other microblogging platforms provide an incredible, free marketing opportunity for independent retailers. The benefits are two-fold.

Firstly, they provide you with an opportunity to monitor what customers are saying about your firm in real-time, while allowing you to respond instantly. Secondly, they allow you to engage instantly with your customers about promotions, new products and other related news.

Zappos, the American footwear retailer, set the benchmark for Twitter engagement. It was an early adopter of the technology, using it for customer service and to promote offers, and has since set up an aggregation page that displays every mention of its brand – again, in real time. This helps to present Zappos as a reputable brand, and an active part of the social media community.

Facebook applications

Facebook is by far the most popular social network, and marketers have long been considering ways to make it work for them. It may not be an effective marketing tool for every retailer, but it is worth spending a bit of time trialling it to see whether it is right for your business.

IKEA have been responsible for some of the most innovative uses of Facebook. Late last year they ran a campaign in which photographs of IKEA storerooms were posted on the network, and Facebook users were told that whoever ‘tagged’ themselves on an item first would win it. This clever combination of interactivity and competition helped to create significant exposure for the retailer across Facebook – and, of course, got people talking offline as well.

Employee engagement

SMM tends to fail when it is obviously dictated from the top down. Instead, you should think about ways that you can encourage your employees to participate in your social networks and their own on behalf of your business. Enlisting their help will also cut down on the time you spend managing your social networks, which can end up being quite a lot!

Sainsbury’s has become increasingly proficient at this in recent months, developing a ‘cookalong’ scheme whereby employees cook a meal (with Sainsbury’s ingredients, of course) once a week and tweet the recipe as they cook.

The importance of listening

Remember that your SMM efforts will only succeed if you are prepared to listen to your customers, rather than talk at them. Unlike most other forms of marketing, social media facilitates conversation, rather than a one-way flow of information. BT understands this well; they monitor many social networks for mentions of their brand name, and respond to users where appropriate.

Bear in mind, though, that users will be instantly turned off by anything resembling spam. So avoid mass following on Twitter, or going on ‘friending’ sprees on Facebook. Instead, think about ways that you can encourage users to come to you.

The power of video

Many businesses underestimate the power of video content but for many people, video is a far more engaging medium than text or still image. Comparatively few marketers bother experimenting with it, however, as it is difficult to get right and the videos can be expensive to create.

A ‘viral’ video is often seen as the holy grail of SMM, and content of this type has driven massive sales for some canny retailers and brands. IKEA has been particularly successful in this area, developing a series of somewhat risqué adverts, and then posting them to Youtube described as ‘banned’ commercials.

As a retail business owner you obviously need to stick to a careful budget, and some of the ideas and examples provided here may therefore be beyond your abilities. But they should help to underline the basic concepts of social media marketing. If you are prepared to listen to your customers, and you understand that the social media sphere does not work like any other marketing medium, you are on the right track.

Finally, it is important to remember that SMM is unlikely to be a panacea for your business. Do not throw all of your eggs in one basket by neglecting other marketing activities. Instead, think about ways that you can leverage a mix of media and marketing techniques to help get your message across.

Taken from: http://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/articles/2010/04/2010-04-06-how-retailers-can-use-social-media-for-marketing/