How Small Businesses Should Be Using Social Media

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As a small business owner, you are probably aware that social media is a must for every business today — particularly those without the benefit of a nationally known brand. However, you may not know exactly how to conduct your own social media strategy. Here are the goals you can achieve through social networking, which platforms would be best for your endeavors, and the rewards that will accrue from your developing social savvy.

Setting Your Business Goals

What do you hope to gain from social media? If a high follower count or an overnight viral post is your idea of social success, you may learn the hard way that those things in themselves are not guaranteed to bring you more business. Instead of a one-hit wonder, your main focus should be meaningful interaction, with the end goal of building a dedicated fan base.

Social strategist Rebekah Radice has outlined ten steps for doing this. Her advice begins with these three initial steps:

  • Create a content plan and posting calendar, so you know when and what you’re saying.
  • Find out what type of posts your target demographic specifically wants to see.
  • Make it your goal to inform, not sell, as this more effectively builds consumer trust.

Radice further states that if you don’t start out with the right mindset, no amount of frenetic social activity will increase your actual customer engagement. Additionally, being informative is especially crucial for service-based businesses such as restaurants. If customers can’t find out everything they want to know about you before they visit in person, many will choose an establishment that is more generous with its information.

Also, don’t be too set on a certain number of interactions or reposts/repins/reblogs that you want to achieve. It’s more important just to engage and connect with customers and show them what you have to offer than to become the account with the fastest-growing number of followers.

Choosing Platforms and Post Types

Not all social platforms are good at the same things. Some are more image friendly (Instagram, Pinterest), while others are better suited to quick blurbs than long discussions (Twitter, Snapchat) and still others are best suited to professional interactions (Google+, LinkedIn). How do you choose the one or more that are best for the purpose and atmosphere of your business?

You can start by identifying which network(s) your desired clients are on. Social monitoring apps can help you narrow this down by seeing where your industry gets the most mentions. Don’t try to overextend yourself too soon; stick to one platform first and build your voice there. One blogger suggests starting with Facebook once you have a website and blog, as it is the most versatile platform. No matter what you decide, always put content first and keep an eye on competitor strategies.

As for what specific types of posts do well, this depends on what you want to promote. Current deals you offer and fun exchanges with followers are two musts, reminding people to check out your business and show them there’s a person behind the account.

People always appreciate blog posts on how to use your product (or use it in unique ways) as well as repair and upkeep tips. Tweet about events you have coming up. Use Facebook to feature your company culture, promote daily and weekly specials, and show off any exciting new products you just got in stock.

While you don’t want to become predictable, it’s okay to find a groove that works for you and stick with it. Make sure any deviations are things that your followers are sure to enjoy, like retweeting or reposting a trending article that fits the interests of your niche. Overall, the highest-performing posts across all social media usually include step-by-step problem-solving instructions, video elements, and lists with plentiful visuals.

Benefiting from Your Social Media Strategy

If you can identify a need in your industry that no one else is meeting and start finding ways to fill it yourself, you’ve got an instant audience. Meet consumer needs and they’ll flock to the source making their life easier — you.

Various benefits of consistent social media use include these:

  • Making your brand more recognizable through repetition.
  • Helping you recognize and resolve customer dissatisfaction before it turns into a PR disaster.
  • Moving you up in search results relevant to your industry.
  • Getting your name in front of thousands of potential customers without potentially costing you a dime.

Having an active social media presence has also proven to increase your customer satisfaction and make you more trustworthy. Once you’ve got the right posts to go along with them, you’re on the right track!

How have you incorporated social media into your business strategy, and what have you learned from the results? Tell us below!

Katherine Halek is the content strategist at Signazon.com, a leading online printer that works with thousands of small businesses around the country. Katherine enjoys writing about social media, marketing and entrepreneurship. Connect with her on Google+.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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