I am frequently asked by small and medium business customers how they should use social media. They see it surrounding them on a daily basis, and maybe they’ve even thrown up a Facebook page for their brand, waded in the LinkedIn waters, or heard of hashtags on Twitter, but is it worth their time and effort? What should they focus on? And how should they balance that with the demands of being a small business owner? By using a few of these simple strategies you can begin to create a social approach that will help your business succeed.
I know you’ve all probably heard that social is great for listening, but take it a step further and really dig in into who in out there. That’s where social media excels. People are putting a lot of information out there about themselves. For instance, If you like that tweet, then find out what Twitter lists that person is a part of, who they follow, and who they tend to retweet. Start following those links and you will extend your reach, and network.
Use LinkedIn to find out about a contact’s company, their background, and then find and join a group that talks exactly about your area of expertise. You can connect to anyone else in that group now. Or maybe way-back-when you went to the same college as the CEO of that brand you’ve been trying to court. It pays to do due diligence, and open up new areas in your network based on researching people, ideas and topics that directly impact your business.
2. Know your goals
What is your goal with social? To spread brand awareness? To get sales leads? Be a thought leader? Have a Klout score of 78? Take the time to plan out what you want. Each of those questions has a different approach from a social standpoint, so be honest with what you want and how much time and effort you are willing to allocate to your goal.
Social media won’t solve all your problems, and you’ll probably end up reassessing those goals a few times as you travel down the social road, but set yourself up right by setting your goals.
3. Don’t be just a voyeur
Social is about interaction, it’s in the dang name for crying out loud. You must be social to succeed in social, but the great thing is that you don’t have to start with an awkward conversation, because you already know a lot about a person. You can lurk forever, reading this and that, but until you start participating in meaningful exchanges and adding value, no one will pay you any heed.
As my father used to say when we would check our post office box and and I was always sorely disappointed I never got any letters: “You have to send ‘em to receive ‘em.”
4. Be the expert
Find your niche, (and everyone has one!) and be the expert. You own a shoe store specializing in foot care? Well, someone out there has a sore foot and is desperately looking for your knowledge. If you can blog, post, and tweet about your area of expertise then the chances of them finding you skyrocket.
Social is all about letting people know that you are an expert, that this is YOUR niche, and customers will start coming to you for answers.
5. Just Twice a day…
Social can easily drag you down into the pit of unproductiveness. You can spend your entire day scanning all those networks over and over. But you can set yourself up for success by using tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Tweetdeck. Take the time to set up keyword and hashtag searches, and to join and follow groups and lists that are applicable to your area, and the process becomes like reading the morning paper.
You will know what is going on in your field, and be ready to jump on the opportunity. Schedule out just 30 minutes at the beginning and the end of your days to scan the boards, see what is happening, and interact where you can.
Just give it a whirl! Technology enables us to try things easily and without too many consequences. This is the huge disconnect between generations: You won’t break the internet, so be honest, take a deep breathe and really give yourself a second to sink into the world of social.
You won’t be perfect out of the gate, but chances are with a little practice you’ll figure out the interfaces of all those different social networks, how people talk in each of them and where your personality or brand persona fits in.
You’ll probably make a mistake or two, you’ll have to ask for help and directions, and you’ll get in over your head, but you will learn. And everyone appreciates it when you give an honest try.