Social media has become the centerpiece of how many people use the Internet, and how they do business. When someone needs to find a local business, they’re more likely today to ask around on Facebook than they are to dig out the Yellow Pages. Small businesses that want to get ahead and stay relevant need to tap into the power of social media.
Yet, sometimes it’s hard to know where to get started. You can spend hours on Twitter trying to promote your business, without any tangible results. That’s why you need to focus on a few key activities that are proven to bring success. Here are a few social media tactics to get you started:
9 Steps to Social Media Success for Small Business
#1 Create a Profile on Major Social Media Sites
At a minimum, you will want to create a profile for each of the major social media sites. Right now, that means LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. As we saw with MySpace a few years ago, a site can go from social media giant to washed up rather quickly, so keep an eye out for these kinds of trends. Add each new client or prospect on each of those sites. To go the extra mile, consider claiming a social media profile on all social media websites using a service such as KnowEm to ensure that no one else claims your business name there in the future.
#2 Decide on Which Site to Focus Your Efforts
Now, depending on the nature of your business, you’re going to have more traction with some sites than with others. For example, if you’re primarily in business-to-business work, you’re going to get more leads with LinkedIn than with Facebook. If you have a consumer product, Facebook or Twitter might be the best bet. Twitter is great for personal branding, and Facebook is great for community referrals. Choose one medium to start with, and work outwards from there.
#3 Start a Blog
A blog can be an integral part of your social media marketing. You don’t have to have something extensive or elaborate; a single short article each week can be enough to generate some interest in your business. Make sure that your blog updates are posted to each of your social media profiles, which you can usually do through the use of a blog plugin. You can setup a blog quickly at WordPress or Tumblr.
#4 Consider Email Tactics, too
A monthly email newsletter can do wonders in terms of generating new business. It also gives customers something that they can forward directly to their friends and associates. Post your email newsletter to your blog, and make sure it’s also linked to your social media profiles. MailChimp is probably the easiest tool to use if you’re new to email marketing, and they have a very generous free account structure.
#5 Engage with Social Media Community
Spend some time interacting with your customers and prospects via the social media sites. If a customer posts a customer service question to your Facebook page, for example, consider answering it directly there, rather than simply giving them your customer service phone number. This demonstrates to that customer – as well as the rest of your followers – that you’re truly interested in solving their concern. In addition, if someone checks in to your location using FourSquare or another service that broadcast the checkin on Twitter, reach out to them to ask them to leave a review about your business as this will boost your Google rankings.
#6 Make Good Use of Multimedia
While some sites are better for images and videos than others, you still need to be using multimedia regardless of which site you’re focusing on. Use professional pictures of your products to really draw more interest. Consider creating a “how-to” video, and sharing that with your followers. Not only does it attract viewers, it also helps to establish your authority in your field. Creating a video can be as simple as doing a screencast with Camtasia, finding a local college student that does video production, or hiring a pro video production crew.
#7 Offer Something of Value
If your Tweets only ever consist of advertisements, people aren’t going to keep following you. Offer regular advice and other types of interaction to your followers.
#8 Connect Your Offline Customers with Social Media, too
Put your Facebook page address on your business cards. List your LinkedIn profile in your email signature. Place a clipboard by your register that will allow customers to sign up for your email list. The goal should be to expand your social media circle of influence, and one of the best ways is to do that with your existing customers. If you use MailChimp for your email newsletter, you can even enable people to signup via a text message from their cell phone.
#9 Regularly Measure Your Results
Ultimately, the success of your social media endeavors should increase your business. If you’re not getting new clients or customers through your social media efforts, it’s time to make a change. Think about a new strategy, or consider focusing on a different site. Try not to focus only on your number of followers, as that can be a bit deceiving.
More and more, social media is becoming the focus of how people interact with businesses. Don’t let your competition beat you in the social media arena; spend some time developing a social media strategy, and make it an integral part of how you reach out to your customers. Here are 3 action items to do this week:
Create a Google Reader account, which you can use to easily monitor multiple industry blogs in one place.
A few times per week, login to your Google Reader account and share interesting content with your readers through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to gradually build your brand as a source of helpful industry information.
Now Is Your Turn…
Have you been using social media for your brand or businesses? What is/are your most successful strategy/strategies so far? Feel free to share in your comment.
Dominique Molina is President of the CertifiedTaxCoach.org, a professional organization that helps tax professionals deliver thousands in tax savings to their clients. Dominique has compiled many resources for members including a tax-specific engagement letter and powerful accounting marketing guides.
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Founder of wchingya.com. A social media enthusiast who loves sharing tips and ideas on how to optimize your online presence. Currently a freelance writer and helps small business owners to setup their business page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @wchingya.