Ah, social media. Ten years ago, you were nothing but a twinkle in the sky, a total geeky concept that we business people didn’t think too much about. What a difference a decade makes, huh?
You can’t get through a day without being bombarded by likes and tweets and pins and follows. It’s enough to overwhelm even the most tech-minded soul, which is why we decided to write this post. We’re business owners, too, so we understand the challenges you’re facing as well as the need for smart tips to help you navigate the social media waters. Here are 10 small business social media tips to help you out.
1. Focus on only one social network, at first. Here’s the thing about social media: you can’t expect to become an expert in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr (we could go on), just like that. It takes time to learn and get comfortable with each one, which is why we recommend starting with only one social media platform, getting comfortable with it, and then adding in another. (Rinse, lather, repeat.)
2. Choose wisely. Do you really need to be on all of them? Probably not. While it makes sense that you want to build a strong social presence with wide reach, this strategy will only work if you plan on diligently engaging and using each one.
The other thing to consider? Certain platforms might not make sense for your business. If you’re in a b2c business, like a clothing shop, connecting with customers through LinkedIn probably doesn’t make sense, since it’s more of a b2b atmosphere.
All that said, we do recommend you consider the heavy hitters: Facebook and Twitter. (And, depending on how things play out, Google+ and Pinterest may very well end up in the heavy-hitter category if they prove they have staying power.)
3. Prioritize. Dedicate a certain amount of time each day to social media, even if it’s just a half hour. Block it into your calendar if you have to. Not being on a particular network isn’t going to kill you. But starting a social media account and then abandoning it after a few weeks doesn’t look good.
4. Take advantage of apps that will make your life easier. Certain apps, such as HootSuite and Ping.fm, allow you to update ALL of your social media accounts from one easy-to-use interface. HootSuite also allows you to schedule updates in advance. Note: we actually recommend doing manual updates for certain social media like Facebook, since FB is all about the status updates, how you word them, and what pictures are “pulled” from links. But for other networks, especially Twitter, automating and scheduling stuff in advance is a lifesaver.
5. Experiment. Sometimes business owners are so worried about making a mistake they forget that, for the most part, much of social media is still new territory. Using it well is more of an art form, rather than a science. While there are social media best practices, it’s still important to experiment with what you post, how you word things, when you post, and how often you post. That’s the only way you’ll be able to determine the “sweet spot” for your customers/prospects on that particular medium. Be aware that what works on one may not work on another.
6. Delegate/share. The best way to spread the social media “time investment” is by sharing the workload. If you have employees or interns, this is a great way to empower them. Add them as admins for social media accounts (make sure you’re still an admin, though!) and give them some freedom/latitude to experiment.
If you’re worried about what they’re going to post and whether they’re going to accurately represent your company, consider creating a brief “style guide,” which outlines things, such as how to refer to your company in social media (e.g. are initials and shortened names okay?) and what topics to avoid (e.g. sharing anything political in nature). Your company culture and the way customers perceive your company will help inform what sorts of things will be acceptable to post. An “edgier” company, for example, might get away with posting more controversial topics, whereas a more traditional company, such as an accounting firm, should probably avoid off-color topics.
7. Learn. The best way to get comfortable with social media is to read up on it. Love Facebook and believe it’s critical to your business? Consider subscribing to something like All Facebook, which provides a daily digest of all things FB. Enchanted by Twitter? Consider downloading HubSpot’s Twitter guide for business. The info you seek is a simple Google search away.
8. Promote. Once you’ve got your accounts up and running smoothly, don’t forget to promote them! You should have social media icons on your website, your advertising, your email signatures, and your promotional products – you get the idea.
9. Understand that traditional ROI doesn’t apply to social media. Traditional calculations for return-on-investment (ROI) doesn’t apply to social media. While you can certainly measure and keep track of certain things, such as likes, followers, and re-tweets, it’s harder to measure your social media efforts against sales, which is why we recommend taking the long view.
Social media is all about relationships, and building solid relationships takes time. How you and your company act on a day-to-day basis on different social media platforms WILL influence customers and prospects. And, over time, these folks may very well buy. But again, it takes time. View social media as a way to expand your reach, stay relevant in your field, and help foster the notion that when someone is ready to buy your particular products or services, all the efforts you’ve done in the social media space will help make sure your company is front and center in your prospect’s mind.
10. Have fun (in other words, BE SOCIAL). Don’t forget, it’s called social media for a reason. Give yourself permission to have fun! If a particular platform ever feels like an albatross around your neck, that’s an indicator that that particular medium is probably not the right one for your business.
Do you use social media for your business? Which network is your favorite and why? Share in the comments.