I’ve been working with a lot of small businesses lately that are a bit late getting on the bandwagon of social media. Perhaps you’re new to the game, and are not sure where to go or what to do. This article will help you understand just that.
A social network should not replace business website services and functionalities. Instead, it should be an extension, a complement and perhaps an enticement to visit the business website in the first place.
So where do you start?
1. Create your profiles
Here is a list of the most popular sites. Don’t feel like you need to be on all of them- but rather focus on the ones where your potential customers are spending their time. Make sure your profile includes all basic business info and has no typos.
The gold standard. Facebook is the top social network on the web. Nothing quite compares to it, not even Google+. With all the changes it has gone through over the years. Facebook has always remained one step ahead of every social networking site on the web.
Centered around microblogging and a 140-character text limit, Twitter has become a popular social network of choice for mobile web users who own smartphones and tablet computers.
Individuals can promote themselves and their businesses, make connections with other professionals, interact in group discussions, post job ads or apply for jobs.
While much of the content shared on existing social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare screams, “Look at me,” Pinterest posts urge, “Look at this.” At least for now, the site offers a refreshing haven away from the boosterism and boasting that plague so many sites. For more on Pinterest, check out:
Instagram has grown to be one of the most popular social networks for photo sharing that the mobile web has ever seen.
Google+ is a sharing network rather than a social network. A social network presupposes that an existing relationship must exist before one can share. “Sharing with friends” is very narrow worldview. In contrast, on a sharing network, relationships evolve as the result of your engagement; relationships are not the prerequisite for sharing.
Although owned by Google, YouTube is still recognized as a separate social network all its own, and one that revolves entirely around video production, vlogging, movie-making and music sharing.
2. Optimize your profiles for search
Make sure to include keywords, descriptions of products and services, accurate contact information and company details people looking for your business would want to know. You can go a step further (and you should) to optimize each profile for search.
Certain networks use specific elements of information that you supply in your profile to optimize each profile on their network. Certain networks use specific elements of information that you supply in your profile to optimize each profile on their network.
One of the best social media articles on SEO: HOW TO OPTIMIZE 7 POPULAR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES FOR SEO
3. Autoschedule Your Tweets To Maximize Exposure & Save Time
You do not have to set your alarm for every 3 hours to remember to make a post- you can schedule them in the future and schedule across multiple platforms. The two tools I use to schedule posts are Hootsuite and Bufferapp.
In the same way you can organize your “columns” with Tweet Deck, you can create “streams” in HootSuite. I also use it to create streams based on search keywords such as “#UX” to identify those talking about the topic and gather new leads. You can also create streams from tweeps looking for your service. For example, set up a stream “website Wilmington ?” which will display any tweets with Wilmington, website and a question. Hootsuite does a better job monitoring all your sites, whereas Bufferapp is better for scheduling.
- An extension you add to your browser that makes it easy to share content while you are on the web across your social network
- Schedule which days and times you want posts to be published- this means you can set up all your posts a week out.
- Use Buffer from tons of different apps on the web and mobile.
- Share links, pictures and videos from wherever you are on the web.
4. Claim your listings on review sites
- Set up your profiles and encourage customers to write reviews. There are advertising packages available as well, but at the very least, have a presence and get some positive reviews under your belt. Make sure to respond to negative reviews.
- Link to these profiles on your website, social networks, newsletters, email signatures
- Encourage customers to review when you speak to them on them in person or on the phone
5. Making social media part of your business
- Adding signs with social media accounts in your business encouraging people to join the conversation online.
- Make social media promotion part of how you end phone calls, “Thanks for calling us today. Be sure to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up with all our latest happenings.”
- Include social accounts in your website, email signatures, newsletters
6. Speak the users language
Publish content that your audience is interested in reading, viewing and sharing. Tutorials, infographics, videos, checklists and contests are great for getting responses from your audience.
7. Engage your audience
Forrester Research has analyzed hundreds of companies that have successful social media strategies. From their research, they’ve identified five primary objectives for success:
- Listening—Use social media tools to research and better understand your customers.
- Talking—Use social media to spread your brand and company goals.
- Energizing—Find your “unofficial” leaders and brand enthusiasts and use social media to supercharge the power of their ideas and word of mouth.
- Supporting—Set up social media tools to help your customers support each other.
- Embracing—Integrate your customers into the way you do business and give them an avenue to share product ideas and cost-saving tips. This is the most complex strategy; and one, when implemented well, can demonstrate the greatest ROI.
8. Be timely
Don’t wait a month to respond to a comment or question, be social and BE TIMELY.
Tom Cull offers advice regarding business response time on social media:
“It could be a blog comment, a message through a form on your website or an email straight into your inbox; all potentially as good leads as each other. What the customer wants in each case is a prompt response, which addresses their inquiry and provides a next course of action. If it’s a personal blog, email or even social media, then people generally expect a response in 1-2 days.”
9. Avoid blatant self-promotion & update overload
Jumping into social networking here and there only to promote your latest product, blog posting, or service. This is about communicating and sharing with others. Yes, definitely promote something you have going on, but use the 80/20 rule. 80 percent value, connecting, and communicating, and 20 percent promotion.
eMarketer reported on a study conducted by SocialVibe that found “one-third of US Internet users who had ended a social connection with a brand did so because the company simply posted too many updates.” Communicate and educate. Don’t inundate.
As a small business, it’s important to know that social media is not a platform to blast out promotions for your own benefit, it’s about being social. That means listening, learning, responding, asking questions, providing useful content. If you are only screaming about your “BIG SALE FRIDAY!” then people will quickly remove you from their network, and THAT is not what we want to happen to our small businesses.