Social Media Tips for Small Businesses

There’s no question that that social media has a big role in the lives of American consumers today. Last year, over 74% of adults regularly used at least one social networking site. Of the top two social networking sites, Facebook gets 900M unique visitors every month followed by Twitter with over 310M monthly visitors. YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S., and more than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices.

With statistics like these, small businesses must take note. But how can you compete with larger, better financed competitors? For those that have figured it out, its become an effective and economic method of engaging customers.

Social media presents both big opportunities and equally big challenges for the neophyte. To be truly effective, it must be done well or it can turn into a rabbit hole of wasted time. Before stepping into this often confusing world, here are a few things to consider…

1. Decide what the ultimate goal of your social media efforts should be. Having thousands of followers is great, but it doesn’t necessarily build your business. Knowing what you want to get out of social media will help determine what channels are best suited for your purpose.

2. You don’t have to be everywhere. There are literally hundreds of social sites out there. The success of your efforts will in large part depend on developing a meaningful presence on the sites that best align with your customers’ interests. Do your research before you jump into social media. Ask your customers what sites they’re regularly using and what they look for on those sites.

3. Content is king! Providing usable information that your customers want positions you as an authority in your field and helps you build the kind of relationships that every business needs for long-term success. The good news is that generating content doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, many experts will tell you that not more than 20% of your content needs to be original. The rest can be drawn from other reputable sources and integrated into your social media program.

4. Establish an authentic personality for your brand and communicate that personality with a consistent “voice.” Think about the way you talk to a customer in your shop… that’s the way you should talk to a customer on social media. Research has shown time and again that customers don’t respond well to “Corporate Speak.” Putting your “real” self forward is key.

5. Designate one person in your organization who will “own” the responsibility for all your social media communication. Allocate a percentage of this person’s time to this role. Funnel all content through this dedicated person to ensure that all communication is both accurate and reflects your brand voice. Choose an individual who is an effective communicator and who understands both the advantages and limitations of the social media channels you use.

6. Be patient… it takes time to build a following. Those big numbers of followers that you read about on Facebook and Twitter didn’t happen overnight. Working in a fairly narrow and specialized industry, your numbers will reflect this. It’s about the quality and not the quantity of followers that you’re interested in.

7. Monetize your social media efforts. It’s important to know what’s working and what may not be working as well across your various programs. Assigning an offer code that varies by channel is a great way to track the effectiveness of program.

There’s much to consider and much to be gained for small businesses that are thinking about getting serious about social media. Let me leave you with one final thought:

Whatever you decide to do, have fun! Social media is just that – social. Sure, the goal is to build your business, but ultimately social media is about connecting. It’s about extending your reach and building the deep and lasting relationships that lead to sales.

Lois Brayfield
CEO J.Schmid
Dean of Creative