Five Effective Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses

Many small business owners I’ve come across are either too busy for social media or do not fully understand how to leverage the resourcefulness of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et al.  As a result, the responsibility is passed on to an intern or a specialist (secretary or receptionist). While I understand that it can be difficult to maintain a presence on all social media platforms, let alone one or two platforms, I continue to stress to small business owners that they need to be on social media and letting others represent the brand can be a costly mistake. This is for a number of reasons, much of which I will discuss in this blog post.

While I have spent many hours working and furthering my knowledge of social media platforms, I’ll admit I am not an expert in social media. I don’t believe its feasibly possible as social media is constantly changing. Nonetheless, I will say I’m a small business owner interested in the intricacies of social media and how it can help further your brand.

Social media is simply a tool that not many small businesses have latched on yet, and it’s a shame as it gives you the ability to directly talk with your customers and communities on a daily basis. Like I said previously, social media is constantly evolving. However, the basic fundamentals aren’t. Because they remain constant, here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years to apply to your social media endeavors.

1) Your customers know best

Social media is not about you or your business, it’s about your customers, audience, and whoever you are trying to reach.

Simply put, you go where your customers are. If your customers are on Facebook, you should be on Facebook. If they’re on Twitter or Pinterest, you should be as well.

This is because the fundamentals of social media are the same as Marketing. You need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think like them. In my particular business, I do a bit of networking through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. The reason I know this is because I’ve asked my customers which social media platforms they are on, and I did this through e-mail or by talking to them in person or on the phone. I want to know to best engage my customers and have them remember me for the next time they need services I offer. Through these conversations with my customers, I’ve learned how my customers want me to engage with them (i.e. sharing tips for how to use Twitter). This should be the same for you and your business.

2) Social media is not your free silver bullet

There are two misconceptions when it comes to social media: the first being that it’s free and the second being that it’s a one-stop solution for all marketing needs.

While you can sign up for social media pages and not have to pay a dime, social media is far from free. Being successful on social media requires an ongoing investment of time, energy, and effort when it comes to creating interesting content, listening to conversations, and responding.

It is also important to know that its often to take a slow and steady approach when it comes to social media. Instead of joining multiple platforms simultaneously, examine what you have learned from your clients and see which platforms best align with your goals and objectives.

3) Follower counts does not equal success

Just because Google has more than three million followers on Twitter does not mean this is how you need to measure success. You may not even have 500 followers, let alone 100, and that’s simply okay. As a small business, you cannot get caught up in the numbers game. Instead, you need to focus on engaging your audience as this will lead to organic growth. This is the best type of growth because these targeted individuals are devoted and enthusiastic, and are more willing than others to share with their friends and family the positive things they hear and see.

4) Learn from social media experts

There are many companies and brands that are doing excellent things with social media. There’s no reason you can’t learn from them. The cardinal rule you must remember is that it is not wise to copy what other companies are doing. Ethically, it’s simply not good business. Additionally, what works for another company does not always work for everyone.

Nonetheless, it’s always critical to learn from others about the type of interactions that work best. Following is a link to some of the best blogs you should follow where experts impart best practices for social media:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-social-media-blogs-the-2012-winners/.

5) Get help, but remain a part of the community

As a small business owner, you have to take care of multiple aspects of a business yourself (marketing, sales, billing, legal, etc.) and don’t have the “luxury” of spending a lot of time on social media. The one biggest mistake I see small business owners make is they relinquish full control of their marketing communications to someone who does not live and breathe the business. You are a huge part of your brand, and it is important you communicate your brand directly and are largely responsible for establishing the relationship with your community and networks.

I understand the need to get help – do so in a fashion that allows you to work alongside someone who can teach you about social media rather than letting them take over for you. The best thing you can do is get in there and try, it’s all about starting somewhere and building your community organically.

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