No harm, no foul. That’s the way a lot of small businesses think about social media. “I guess this thing might help my business, but not doing anything can’t hurt me, right?”
Wrong. Silence is no longer an option, because whether you like it or not, people are already talking about you on social media sites. The problem for your small business is that you’re not part of the conversation, and that means you’re probably losing potential customers.
“OK. I get it. But I don’t know how this thing works, and I don’t want to jump in and maybe make matters worse.”
Well, you’re not alone in feeling that way. According to a recent report from eMarketer, most small businesses are coming up empty when it comes to social media strategy. In fact, less than one in four has effectively built the use of social media into their overall marketing strategy.
The good news is that you can start today, and you don’t have to go it alone. You can find online marketing experts who will help you build a smart social media strategy for your small business to build your visibility, enhance your reputation, increase qualified leads and add to sales.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), not knowing how to get started is the number-one reason small businesses stay out of the social media market. To help small businesses jump into social media, SBA lists these 10 things you can do to get started:
- Don’t pick just any site. start with one that’s related to your business. A restaurant getting started with social media might immediately think “Twitter.. Actually, they’ll probably have better luck on Yelp. Take the time to find the best site for your business, grow it, then expand from there.
- Think about your audience. what will your potential customers be interested in. You want to give them “quality content,” namely, information they want and can use. If you decide to share news, make sure it’s news that’s interesting to them, not only to you. You could start with some quality blogs, white papers, webinars and how-to videos.
- There’s a reason you have two ears and just one mouth. the art of social media is in understanding that this is a conversation, and that means you have to listen. After all, that’s what being “social” is all about. Listen to potential customers, of course, but also to people who influence your business, and to your competitors.
- Loosen up. drop the industry jargon and corporate hat. You’ll turn people off. Be yourself, be authentic, and speak like a person speaking to another person. When you sign off, do it with your first name.
- Post content that gets fans talking to fans. you build your social media network by encouraging mutually-supportive relationships between the people who like you. Again, this is mostly about being an active participant in the conversation, by really listening to what people say, and by actively encouraging people to share their experiences.
- Robots don’t make for good conversation. avoid the temptation to automate posts. Eventually (if not immediately), posts will sound stale, unoriginal and inauthentic. Take the time to get into the action. Remember, it’s all about being yourself and being real.
- You have to make a commitment. an effective social media strategy isn’t a once-in-a-while thing, or something you only do when you want to launch a new product. It has to be ongoing and continual. And it has to be something your whole organization gets involved in, not one staff member who becomes your “social media guy.”
- It’s also about customer service. social media is a great way to enhance your customer service efforts. That means (again) you have to stay engaged, read new posts, and respond in real time to questions or complaints.
- Get integrated. the best social media campaigns are part of a wider marketing strategy. It’s not a replacement for your website, but should work with it seamlessly, as well as with your email marketing strategy.
- Add 2 cups of flour and stir. you can’t bake a great cake without measuring, and you can’t bake social media without measuring results, like click-through rates. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you do this, like Facebook’s Insights tool.
Tapping into social media will add new life to your marketing efforts and teach you about your business and potential customers. But you have to do it right, and for that, your best bet is to team up with professionals who have the experience to make your social media strategy a winner.