I was leading a seminar on Social Media for Small Business, and the overwhelmed look on the participants’ faces was voiced by 1 question “How much time is it going to take to do all this?”
It does seem overwhelming if you try to get involved in social media all at once. This article will attempt to outline the various ways that small business people can start participating in social media, and ways to expand your involvement when you are comfortable with it. Even though using social media at its most basic level is free, it can be very time consuming. Once you’re more experienced with it, you can start experimenting with some higher involvement and even pay features like advertising.
If you own a restaurant or hotel, or any business for that matter, start your introduction to social media by monitoring for mentions of your business. You can set up a free Google Alert, which will email you anytime the Google crawl robot comes across a mention of your brand or company.
Go to Twitter, set up a personal account. Do Twitter searches (in the search box on the top of the page) on your company name or brand. You can save these searches so that any time you come back to Twitter you can click on the search and see what people are tweeting about your company or brand.
You can also use other free services, like Social Mention, to create Social Mention Alerts which will email you with any mention they find of your search terms. These searches are an invaluable way to understand what people are saying about you.
2. Modest Engagement
If you are not going to do any updating on social media sites, then don’t even bother to set up accounts. No one wants to go to a social media page and find that it hasn’t been updated in six months. The purpose of being in social media is to engage with your customers and start to attract new prospects. If you don’t have the time or inclination to engage, then don’t do it.
If you are willing to engage at a modest level, start by familiarizing yourself with the big social media networks: Facebook and Twitter for B2C marketers and LinkedIn for B2B marketers. There are tons of free e-books and articles out there to teach you how to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Some of the resources that I like best are:
- Facebook 101, Amy Porterfield, Social Media Examiner
- Facebook 101 For Business, Social Media Examiner
- How to Use Facebook for Business: An Introductory Guide, by HubSpot
- Twitter for Beginners, Charlene Kingston, Social Media DIY Workshop
- How to Use Twitter for Business: An Introductory Guide, by HubSpot
- Learning LinkedIn From the Experts, HubSpot
If you do decide that you are willing to make the time commitment to engage, maybe by logging onto a couple of social media accounts once a day (10-15 minutes), then start slow. Establish accounts for you and your business. On Facebook, create a personal Profile and business Page. On Twitter, decide whether you want an account for your business, in which case your avatar (the picture used next to your posts) should be your company logo, or a personal account. You can still use a personal account to promote your business, but your user name and avatar should be your own name and picture.
Start by listening to what people are saying, and answer questions or be helpful where you can. It is a good idea to reply to everyone who has commented by thanking them for their comment.
At this stage you can use some of your social media posts to promote your business, sales, events, specials. Try not to promote your company or product too much; 70/30 or 80/20 is a good ratio of helpful content to promotional posts.
Finally, be sure to put Social Sharing buttons on your website and all of your marketing materials so that your customers know that they can find you on those social media sites.
3. Actively Share Content
In this phase you are typically posting information that your customers would find interesting or helpful. You are actively creating content to share with your fans or followers. This could be blog posts or articles, white papers (especially for B2B), videos, webinars, etc. Don’t forget, you can post links to articles other people have written too (this is called content curation) as long as you give them the credit.
You should try to post about twice a day, at least several hours apart. Once you get to this phase you might want to invest in a social media publishing and monitoring application like Hootsuite or Argyle Social. These applications allow you to schedule publication of your posts, so that you don’t have to spend the time doing it manually. Note, you should still take the time to respond to people’s posts and comments manually!
Gary Vaynerchuk is a wine store owner (and now an acknowledged social media guru) who has taken his business to a completely new level by engaging with his customers through many vehicles with many forms of content. Check out his website or follow him on Twitter to see how he does it.
4. Using Social Media Sites’ Advertising and Deal Capabilities to Target New Customers
In this most advanced phase, you are experimenting with the advertising and marketing vehicles the social media sites offer, like Facebook’s Advertising, Sponsored Stories and Deals, and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. The goal is to reach your ideal target customer prospect with your message. You can target your fans’ friends, prospects based on demographics, interests, even users of competitive brands or companies!
I hope this article has given you a general overview of how you can start to get involved with social media marketing and the steps you can take to utilize it to grow your business. Let me know what stage are you in? Has this overview been helpful?