Since starting my business in 2007, I have worked with a number of small businesses – and at the beginning all of them have the same mindset; “Twitter and Facebook… that’s not for me. I don’t know how to do it, and I haven’t got the time”
Effective use of Social Media tools will not make your business an overnight success… but it will increase your exposure to a massive audience (full of potential customers), it will increase the traffic visiting your site,and it will improve your site rankings in search engines.
If you leave this article with one thought only, let it be that Social Media is suited to every business. Once you understand the tricks involved, not only will you see that you do have the time, but also that you understand why sharing your news with the world is important.
1. It is not a passing trend
If your business is currently considering whether to invest time and resources in your online profile, what are you waiting for? The choice is no longer, “Will we do Social Media?”, but now “How well will we do it?” While there will arguably always be a place for the now-termed ‘traditional’ marketing activities, social media is not going to be a passing trend. The growth of Social Media is relentless, and will continue to change the way we go about our everyday lives.
If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world (i.e. bigger than the USA)
YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world
People care more about how their social contacts rate a product, than how Google ranks it
78% of consumers trust peer recommendations… only 14% trust adverts
Accept the fact that Social Media is here to stay, and get your business on board from the beginning.
Burying your head in the sand is not an option.
2. It can be a low-cost marketing tool
The low cost card has been overplayed in the past -so I’m not going to say this can all be yours free! There are clearly costs associated with establishing a social media strategy for your business, not least including the consultancy fees if you decide to outsource the activity to a third party. Another sometimes hidden cost, is that of your time if you decide to manage your own online profile.
Keep in mind the sheer size of market you can reach with your online activities. Yes the costs are there and should always be carefully monitored to ensure you are getting a quality service, but think about the scale of marketing campaign you would need to reach a global audience. Comparatively they really are minimal.
Creating an engaging online presence, that accurately reflects your brand/business, can leapfrog the often expensive marketing activities aimed at generating market awareness and preference (i.e. Adverts in papers/radio, leafleting, direct mail etc). Imagine doing a mail shot to the whole of the UK – how much might that cost?, and more importantly, how many of those recipients would be interested in your product?
Using social media, your business can establish itself in the marketplace, and be accessible to a global audience.
3. It IS relevant to your business
One of the MOST frustrating stumbling blocks is the misbelief that Social Media is reserved for a specific type of business – Who made up that rule?
If I need a dance class for my daughter, I am going to look on Facebook for a group nearby. If we need a decorator to fix up our bathroom, we will look on the Internet to see who comes recommended. Every business should be using social media if they are interested in attracting new customers and increasing sales. The difference between SEO and social media is the ease with which you can share your news and your personality.
One of my clients is a green heating installation company based in Northampton (UK) and they use Twitter every day to share what job they’re about to start, upload photos of installations, and comment on news stories. Visits to their site have increased, and their opinion has been mentioned in the national press regarding Energy efficiency stories. By sharing their views and news, they gained free PR and advertising for nothing.
4. You DO have the time
Running a small business myself, I fully understand how there are sometimes not enough hours in the day.
You can be so busy doing your job, that sharing your news with the world can get pushed to the bottom of your to do list.
The trick with this is quite simple…. relax. Consider what you would tell your partner when you get home from work, “a funny thing happened a the office today…” or “we got a great lead on a potential new client from so and so” – all of the stuff you would normally share with someone who is interested in your day – you share online.
Having lots of different accounts can get confusing so you should think about starting off simple – have one online account (Twitter is probably easiest for this) and try and tweet something interesting everyday. You can do this from your mobile or your desktop, and you will honestly be surprised how quickly this becomes second nature.
Once you are confident on one platform, consider your other options and try out a few. Once you’ve got a couple of accounts, you can pool your streams (the information you share) which helps co-ordinate all your accounts in one easy to use place (take a look at Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite for examples of these).
Social Media is all about Return on Investment i.e. the more time you spend on your accounts, the more returns you will see for your business…but it’s your choice. As a guide, you could spend as little as 10 minutes / day keeping up with your Twitter followers and feeds, and still maintain an active and relevant profile.
5. Slowly slowly catchy monkey…
The number one rule to remember with social media is “NO HARD SALES”.
Whatever you do, never never never fill your feeds with list after list of products and links to your website. All this will do is get your accounts flagged as spam and turnoff potential customers. The general rule of thumb is to approach your social media as a conversation – much like you would chat to people in the pub. Tell people about your day and ask about theirs. Find out what they are interested in, and suggest reputable and relevant contacts to help.
Building relationships takes time, but can reap great rewards. Express your personality through your accounts (as long as it is in keeping with your business) and you will find followers ready to listen to what you have to say. When you do include promotional messages in your updates, your audience is empathetic and interested to find out mo