4 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses: by Dale Cook
As a small business owner, you are busy and your time is limited. Social media is ubiquitous and may seem like a great way to communicate with hundreds (or thousands) of people really quickly, but it will only work if you do it right.
Know your audience
The first thing you want to do is figure out who you want to reach: new customers, existing customers, past customers or a more targeted group? For new customers, specify as much about your ideal client as you can. Are they male or female? How old are they? What hobbies do they have? What social media do they use regularly? There are, of course, more details you can add but it’s definitely important to build a picture of your perfect punter.
If you want to talk to existing customers, do a bit of research to find out what social networking sites they use the most. You can make free surveys online, hold focus groups, ask questions on relevant forums and more. If they don’t spend a lot of time on twitter, then you don’t need to create an account.
The social network(s) you are on will be dictated by your target audience, so once you know where they like to hang out, it’s easier to establish a goal.
What is your goal?
It sounds obvious, but it’s rarely done. You should know exactly what you want to achieve. Do you just want to provide another channel of communication between your business and your customers? Are you trying to increase awareness of your brand? Are you looking for another way to distribute great content? There are loads of things you can do with social media, but don’t try to do them all. Identify your most important goal and focus on that.
Whatever your goal, it’s a good idea to incorporate your social media activities into everything you do. Web design software, like WebPlus, makes it easy to integrate social elements on your website, and you can talk about your social media accounts in your newsletter as well as list the social media links on your flyers (and other printed marketing material) etc. It also works the other way too. Use your social media channel(s) to deliver related and helpful information to your customers.
Plan your time
How much time can you realistically commit to social media? If you can only spare a few hours a week, you may not see much of a return for your time. In fact, having a poor social presence can be more damaging to your brand than not even being there – it will seem like you are ignoring your customers. You’ll need to work on your account consistently to build momentum and a reputation.
If the responsibility will be shared amongst two or more people, consider creating some basic guidelines so everyone knows what is expected of them. Among other things, it’s important for everyone to use the same tone of voice to maintain brand consistency.
Much like Rome, nothing awesome is built in a day. If you’re expecting to see positive results in a few weeks, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Allow at least six months before evaluating how well you are doing then reassess whether you want to continue.
Monitor your success
You should regularly monitor the impact of all of your marketing – including any social media activities. How you do that will relate directly to the goal you set. If your goal was to offer a fast way for customers to ask you questions (to reduce incoming support emails and calls), find out if it worked. There are a lot of different calculations you can do that involve percentages, comparisons to last period’s figures, and time spent per query, or, you could use the built-in analytics in your social media accounts.
However, you might get a better picture of how you are serving your customers by simply asking them. Again, you can make use of free survey software, emails, focus groups, etc. If your customers love the new social media support option (and it’s actually being used enough so you can devote less resources to your traditional support methods), then it is a good idea to keep it.
If you haven’t picked up on the underlying point of the article, here it is: while social media is free, it takes a lot of your (or someone else’s) time to research, plan, promote, execute, and assess your activities. You’ll want to see an ROI (return on investment) at some point, so it only pays to do it if you are going to do it well.